Although it looks like a larger, melted Tiida hatchback, the Leaf is much more than that. If Nissan has its way, it will be the first mass produced pure electric car, with the company hoping to churn out 50,000 in its first year. Compare this to the 1700 or so Mitsubishi i MiEVs that have been sold between July 2009 and March 2010.
Motivated by a 80kW/280Nm electric engine, the Leaf can reach a top of 140km/h and has a predicted driving range of 160km. The lithium ion battery pack is situated under the seats and floor and should still have 70 to 80 per cent of its original capacity by its 10th birthday.
As yet unseen mobile phone apps will let drivers check up remotely on their car's battery status and change the climate control temperature whenever it's plugged in. Sat nav-equipped Leafs will be able to display nearby charging stations, as well as a radius of the car's predicted range.
Nissan's dealers in Japan, at least, will help purchasers to install charging units at home. The company will also install charging points at each of its 2200 dealers throughout Japan. 200 of those dealers will also be equipped with a quick charging unit that can replenish 80 per cent of the battery's capacity in 30 minutes; a full charge on a regular 240V system requires roughly eight hours.
According to Nissan, there should be at least one quick charge unit within a 40km radius throughout Japan. No specific infrastructure announcements have yet been made for Australia.
Although the Leaf is due to go on sale in Europe, Japan and North America in late 2010, it won't be coming to Australia until 2012. Japanese pre-orders for the car will begin in April 2010, with the base price set at ¥3.76 million (AU$44,350) or ¥2.99 million (AU$35,260) after government incentives. In America the Leaf will retail for US$32,780 (AU$35,610) before federal government rebates and US$25,280 (AU$27,470) after.
With Australian sales still a long way away, no local price has been announced, but the local Nissan arm hasn't ruled out allowing customers to purchase the car and lease the expensive battery pack as a method of reducing the Leaf's sticker price.