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Is the Award Winning Nissan LEAF Really Up To Scratch?

It may not be due on Australian roads until 2012, but there is already a positive buzz surrounding the Nissan LEAF all-electric car. The LEAF – Leading, Environmentally friendly, Affordable, Family car – was rolled out in both the US and Japan in late 2010 and initial reactions have been good. So good, in fact, it has already sold out in both countries. Despite it being a relative newcomer to the electric vehicle stable, the Nissan LEAF has taken out a number of awards, including the US Environmental Protection Agency’s best eco car and, more excitingly, the European Car of the Year 2010, making it the first electric car to do so.

So what is so special about the LEAF?

Looking rather like the Tilda, the Nissan LEAF is, on the surface, a 5-door hatchback. However, as you would expect of an electric car, the Nissan LEAF produces zero emissions as it releases no greenhouse gases, making it part of the growing breed of green vehicles appearing in car showrooms across the world.

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The 80kW (280Nm of torque) electric motor is powered by a lithium ion battery, which Nissan guarantees for 160, 000 (100,000 miles) or 8 years. As with all electric cars, battery charging to keep the vehicle on the road is the big issue. In Japan, Nissan is combating this by introducing fast-charging stations, or ‘pumps’ at its dealerships. These facilities mean that your new LEAF can be recharged to 80% capacity in a mere 30 minutes. If you can’t get to one of these fast-charge stations, the car can be topped up in around 8 hours off of 240-volt mains. The hatch has a neat little double socket hidden under the badge on the front of the car, allowing you to choose whichever type of recharging solution suits your circumstances.

Whilst Nissan claims that the new plug-in LEAF can achieve a speed of over 150km/h, a top speed of 140km/h with a range of approximately 160km, depending on conditions, seems a more realistic guideline. This makes it a great option as an inner city run-around, an area of the auto market where eco and electric cars are making are making inroads overseas and should do in Australia too, given that about 80% of us cover less than 80 kms a day by car.

Has the family electric car finally arrived?

Dan Thompson, the CEO of Nissan Australia, is talking up the future of the Nissan LEAF. He is predicting that 10% of his company’s total sales will consist of electric vehicles by 2020. Given that we have been happy to embrace the first wave of hybrid car, such as the Toyota Prius and Camry, it’s fair to assume many Australians will be just as quick to adopt the emerging electric vehicles – as long as their performance can keep up with that of comparable petrol powered and hybrid cars.

Certainly, what with the Mitsubishi i-MiEV going on sale here shortly and the promised arrival of the LEAF in 2013, it looks as though green motoring is not only here to stay, but could be run on zero emissions electric motors.

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