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Is The Nissan LEAF The First "Cool" Electric Car?

Nissan has announced that its award winning LEAF (Leading, Environmentally friendly, Affordable, Family car) electric car, which has already made history by being the first electric car to win European Car of the Year, should be available here in 2012. The LEAF has great green credentials as, being all-electric, as opposed to part electric, part petrol motor, like many of the popular hybrid cars that are appearing steadily on our streets, this 5-door hatch is a true zero emission vehicle. But the Nissan LEAF is hardly the first electric car to be released, so what makes this one so hyped?

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Firstly, unlike many of the previous electric vehicles to have made it out of the factory, the Nissan LEAF looks like it will actually be a practical solution to the problems of both motoring pollution and inner city driving. Running on an 80kW electric motor, which is powered by a lithium ion battery, the LEAF has a range of around 160km and a proven top speed of 140km/h. In addition, this green car can be charged to 80% strength in only 30 mins at a special fast-charging station (Nissan is putting these into its dealerships all over Japan, although whether that will also happen in Australia is, as yet, unclear), or can be charged off 240-volt mains in approximately 8 hours. All of this means that the LEAF is a genuine contender in the race to be the first electric car to have mass market appeal, rather than being merely a nice, but impractical, vehicle adopted by greenies.

However, actually having the range and power necessary to survive on our cities streets is not the Nissan LEAF's only attraction – the car hums with all kinds of cool features, making it a must for all gadget fans. For example, you can find out such information as where you used up most power during your day's driving and how much charge there is left in your battery, all without sitting in the driver's seat and turning the vehicle on. This is because the LEAF has a built-in mobile SIM card, which is continually logging data for you to access when and wherever you like from your mobile phone. There are some great ideas, like being able to warm the car up on a cold morning prior to your getting into it by turning on the heating in advance, or cooling it by activating the air-con on a hot day all of which can be done remotely.

This is all part of Nissan's 'Carwings' system, which is something that Nissan has been working on for some time and has trialed extensively in Japan. It was conceived as a way to enhance fuel-efficient motoring, by taking the car navigation system to the next level so that it encourages eco-driving by monitoring variables such as fuel consumption and which individual driver actually drives the vehicle most efficiently. In the Nissan LEAF, Carwings can tell the driver everything from where they are to the number of kilometers to the next charging station, all as long as they are within the range of a mobile signal. All of these readings are displayed on the LEAF's dashboard, which means that it is quite different from the dash on conventional autos.

A new look dashboard for what could well be one of the first electric cars to really make a positive impact both on our roads and on greenhouse emissions.

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