Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Testing the Leaf on Nissan's Yokohama track

Dawn broke early this morning in Yokohama, and I was awake to see it since I was still on west coast time. I also couldn't sleep given this was the day I would finally get to drive the actual Leaf EV, not a converted mule like those I'd driven before.

Nissan flew Marc Geller and me, along with a few auto journalists and bloggers from around the world, to Japan on Monday for a Leaf immersion. We got started early with a hearty breakfast followed by a short bus ride through this large industrial city hard to Tokyo's southern city limits. The streets were amazingly clear of traffic, at least compared to any large American city I've visited. Marc speculated that it might be due to a good mass transit system. Also missing was even a hint of graffiti. Wish that were true of the U.S.

We arrived at Nissan's test track and were brought into a building where we received a thorough overview of the Leaf, along with instructions on how to avoid hitting the birds on the backstretch (hint: stop the car immediately!).

We were each given up to 30 minutes behind the wheel on the track, and I drew the lucky straw to be first. A very nice engineer who had designed many of the exterior features of the car was my instructor. He walked me through the starting process which essentially consisted of pushing a button that triggered a melodic series of notes, one of three you can choose to hear when you start your Leaf. Putting the car in drive is accomplished by nudging the round knob toward you and back, not unlike the dash mounted device on the Prius, but this one is located precisely where your hand naturally rests, so there is no reaching for it.

Ergonomically, the car is a dream. Everything inside seemed to fit my frame perfectly, and I suspect it will for most people. I tried the back seat and there was ample leg room and plenty of head room. Three adults could easily fit in the back seat.

The interior of the car is gorgeous! Like most Japanese cars these days, Nissan is taking pains to make sure as much recycled product is used to manufacture the interior panels, seat fabric and most everything else inside the car. The result feels good tactically and emotionally.

Once I had adjusted the mirrors and fastened the seat belt, it was time to drive. With cameras rolling I glided out of the staging area and onto the track's main straight away, flooring it to see what kind of kick it had. Since I'd driven the GM Volt not too long ago, I could fairly compare the two in terms of acceleration. I'd give the nod to the Volt on that score, but just barely. The Leaf had plenty of power in the lower speeds, but it leveled out just a tad as I got over 60. I didn't try to hit the top speed, but did get over 70 quickly and it was still pulling strong as I let off. On the third lap, I was feeling like I could push the curvy section and did. The car responded perfectly, hugging the road and steering predictably. I learned later that this is a consequence of having the bulk of the weight distributed tightly in the lower center of the car. This eliminates yaw of the vehicle when turning hard. An internal combustion car's front end will pull to the outside since the heavy engine is toward the front of the car. One final test was an emergency brake. I warned the co-pilot so he wouldn't freak out and slammed on the brakes. Just as with the RAV, the stopping ability was very strong. This seems to have something to do with combining the regen of the motor with the disc brakes. It really gives you peace of mind knowing it'll stop so well.

My co-pilot insisted I roll up the windows while we drove so he could demonstrate how quiet the car was. I've driven several EVs over the years, but nothing comes close to being as quiet as my RAV, that is until I drove this Leaf. Total silence, well, except for the tinnitus, but that's all in my head so it doesn't count. I even forgot about the controversial noise that the federation for the blind has insisted be added to all electric vehicles. Many in the EV community have tried to fight the move to add noise to these quiet cars since we think it's not really needed, but legislation is before Congress to do just that. Both Nissan and GM have given in to the demand and added noise to their respective EVs when they are driven at low speeds. After I got out, I didn't recall hearing the noise, so I asked them to demonstrate it. They brought a small gas car, the Nissan Versa, and a Leaf to a separate area and had first the gas car drive slowly toward us, then the Leaf. I could barely hear either of them, but the Leaf did have an audible noise. If you clicked that link, you heard the noise for both going forward and backing up. It sounds very loud in the you tube video, and that's why so many of us got upset that Nissan added such a noise, but in reality, it's barely audible when you're outside the car, and pretty much not audible at all from in the car with the windows rolled up. If there is ambient noise on the street, you probably won't hear it at all. The back up noise is about twice as loud, however, and was a bit obnoxious to me. Both noises can be turned off with the push of a button once the car is on, so it won't be a big problem unless or until the legislation passes and then they'll probably have to eliminate the button that disables the noise on future models.

Here's a picture of the small solar panel you get if you buy the SL version. The energy generated by the panel will help maintain a charge in the car's auxiliary battery to power in-vehicle devices. It's a nice touch and helps people understand that they can power the car's traction battery pack by installing a larger solar PV system on their house.

This photo shows a design of the Leaf that some have found unappealing, the head lamps. We learned today that they were designed to divert the airflow around the side mirrors to improve the coefficient of drag and reduce wind noise. The photo they showed from the wind tunnel seemed to prove the efficiency of the design.





They had three Leafs driving constantly over the course by the 2 dozen invited guests, with most everyone pushing the car to its limits over and over. After we were finished, they plugged in to a couple of 50 kW chargers to replenish the energy. I'd never seen an EV charge so fast! The Tesla HPC charges at about 18 kW and my RAV charges at 6.6 kW. This 50 kW charger took the Leaf's battery pack to 80% full in less than 20 minutes, then the amperage automatically dropped to top off the battery safely. The Leaf is initially coming out with a 3.3 kW charger, but will eventually be built with a 6.6 kW charger. However, as slow as 3.3 kW is, as long as you have one of the Aerovironment fast chargers available near your house, you'll always be able to get charged up in a matter of minutes (the one shown here is a Nissan built charger). Several dozen will be installed in the initial roll out cities with hundreds more planned as the number of Leafs grows throughout the first year. Eventually, there will be thousands of fast chargers along the freeways and inside of cities everywhere. All you'll have to do is drive to your favorite coffee shop and plug in. By the time you've sipped your latte, your car will be full.

The day was capped off with a big dinner on the 70th floor of Yokohama's tallest building. Nissan's top executives were sprinkled throughout the room with our table being graced by Nissan's super-friendly COO, Toshiyuki Shiga. Marc and I bent his ear for most of the dinner, then he was replaced with Hideaki Watanabe, Corporate VP and lastly with Andy Palmer, Senior VP, Product Planning. These executives have bet the bank on the success of their EV program, and Marc and I were happy to tell them their bet is safe.

If you haven't already deposited $99 to get a place in line, go here and do so today.

Thursday, we have lunch with CEO, Carlos Ghosn. I can't wait...

69 comments:

  1. Paul,
    I am sufficiently jealous! I was fortunate enough to drive the test mule that they brought through Seattle in December. It was a great experience. I have been driving a wide variety of performance EVs since 1999 (see evparts.com and the NEDRA records page for some examples of my rides), so I felt that I could give a reasonable comparative view of the performance.
    Let's just say that the experience was good enough that I reserved one for myself, and that I am on the short list for the first models that hit Seattle this year>
    -Tom True CEO, EV Parts, Inc

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the update Paul, you lucky devil. The Leaf looks like an incredibly vehicle, perhaps an EV game changer. Have fun with Carlos.

    Ryan Pickering

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great post Paul. Looking forward to getting our Leaf this Fall! Ken W

    ReplyDelete
  4. Paul:

    Have you also driven the iMiev and if so, how would you compare it with the Leaf? Thank you. Jim Poch www.plugincarolina.org

    ReplyDelete
  5. Drooooling with envy, Paul. I am curious to know exactly how the "D/Eco" option works on the shifter. Does it "toggle" between the two modes? Did you try "Eco"? What differences did you notice?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Very nice review. I've driven the mule and sat in the finished but stationary car. All very nice. Even though they are going to build these cars in the UK, every time I read about what is taking place in the states I feel like we are years behind. Good work in spreading the word.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Another question, Paul. :o) Is that black "zero emissions" briefcase in the back a freebee gift they are giving the guests? Or perhaps a case that holds the 110V cable for opportunity charging? (That's my guess because of the dedicated eyehook to attach it.)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great news that hopefully spreads near and far. Design, handling, comfort, can't miss. Worth waiting for the 6.6 charger? Thanks for staying up all night to update us!
    Santa Monica neighbor~ D

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for the review (tipped off by @bobbyllew)! I want one SOOOO bad!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you, Paul. Some more info on the regen behaviour sould be appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great report. Anything else you can share with us from your dinner conversation ?

    One thing we all would like to know is how many Leafs do they plan to deliver in December in US ?

    http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=578

    ReplyDelete
  12. Paul,

    Thanks for the update! Could you tell us, will that "to come" 6.6 kW charger be a 110 V or 120 V charger? Also, how long will it take to charge the car with the 6.6 kW charger? I have read that the on-board battery management system will throtle charging, so the charge time is not as simple as doing the math.

    ReplyDelete
  13. The headlights don't bother me a bit. I figure, if anything, they should make it easier to judge where the front corners of the car are when you're parking.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you for this great and thorough review. It was one of the most thorough reviews of the Leaf I've seen yet.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Really enjoyed your great post, Paul. Very glad to hear the "low speed" noise is relatively quiet. It sounded pretty harsh from the clip.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Paul, Excellent review! Thank you for sharing your experience! I'm excited about the Leaf, having made a deposit. As a car guy, and to be fair, a car's handling is based upon the weight distribution and center of gravity as you mentioned. However, plenty of ICE vehicles have perfect weight distribution (BMW M3) and many have mid and rear engines (R8, 911) with awesome handling. EV drivetrains will win the day, no need to knock ICEs for bad handling, but let's knock bad handling vehicles for simply poor design.

    Bryan
    LA

    ReplyDelete
  17. Paul,
    Thank you. I had some of the same questions as those above -- when is the 6.6 kW charger coming?, when will the LEAF be available outside of its core areas?

    Also, thanks for addressing the noise issue. I knew the automakers would cave on this one. It's such a shame that it's been totally over-simplified by the NFB, and that the mainstream media never, ever address the real negative physiological effects of urban noise (which affects everyone, including the blind), with autos the No. 1 offender. I'd like to hear more about exactly what the decision process was for the specific sounds added to the LEAF, decible levels, at what speeds it sounds, what type of noise it is, what alternatives they tried, whether it might change, etc.

    Also, just to double check -- those of us who buy a LEAF before the U.S. legislation passes (it will, I'm sure) will be able to simply turn this artificial noise off with a button -- is this correct. I know this is what you wrote, but I just want to confirm this.

    Finally, for anyone who wants to read a side of the EV noise story that the mainstream media don't/won't cover, you might want to check out our series on EV noise at SolarChargedDriving.Com -- http://solarchargeddriving.com/news/evsphevs/214-ev-drivers-add-voices-to-noise-and-safety-debate.html

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thanks for the excellent test drive report. You put out a really nice piece here. I used a couple of your quotes myself, (=

    /nice work

    ReplyDelete
  19. Here's a link to a Seattle Post Intelligencer story that just came across my RSS feed which has a couple of YouTube videos embedded in it that illustrate the artificial sounds on the LEAF.

    http://blog.seattlepi.com/transportation/archives/211208.asp

    ReplyDelete
  20. Greetings from Chattanooga, Tennessee--one of the initial rollout markets for the Leaf. Anyone else from Tennessee here? I've put down my $99 deposit and and really looking forward to owning a Leaf. I recently sold an EV conversion, a 1995 Ford Contour. I learned a lot with that experimental EV.

    ReplyDelete
  21. How about range? Are their estimates accurate based on the test drives?

    ReplyDelete
  22. We went to the top of the Landmark building a few years ago - quite the view.

    Looking forward to driving the LEAF.

    Thanks for the report.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Great article with lots of details that is hard to find in one place anywhere else. Now, if I can only convince my wife...

    ReplyDelete
  24. YANQUETINO: Eco remaps power curve & off throttle regen. Case houses 120V EVCE.

    RON: 6.6 kw charger 220 volt only.

    MIKE: Headlamps designed to show corners.

    BRYAN: Lower CG & yaw inertia vs ICE, not just F/R weight distribution.

    CRISTOF: 6.6 kw charger in 2012 with US produced LEAF. Dash switch to mute sounds.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hi Paul, Thanks for a great report. We're certainly all hoping for the success of the Leaf, especially if it finally paves the way for more EVs. It sounds like Nissan has dones a good job with the Leaf.

    Minor technical correction: Having the battery pack low and below the roll centerline (technically called the "mass centroid") of the vehicle would reduce roll during a turn, not yaw. A vehicle literally cannot turn without yawing. Turning left or right is yawing....

    Yaw is rotation around the vertical axis. Roll is rotation around the fore-aft horizontal axis. (Pitch is rotation around the left-right horizontal axis.)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Anonymous above is correct also. Having the battery pack mass between the wheels does reduce the yaw inertia, which means there's less mass to accelerate rotationally in a turn; in other words it requires less work to turn. It's somewhat analogous to a mid-engined ICE, and part of the reason all serious racing cars ans some sporty cars are mid-engined.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I'm sure there will be a hack to turn off any sound generated even if they remove the "off" button. Nice review.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Great report, Paul. I remember being in Tokyo as a consultant to Sony years ago, and I recall not being able to sleep too -- with the time change and all the excitement. You really tell the story beautifully.

    ReplyDelete
  29. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hi - I'm suprised you didn't know where the batteries were located - check out the images in this good CNN article for a cross-section of the car and lots of shots of the battery packs: http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2010/fortune/1002/gallery.nissan_leaf.fortune/4.html (in this photo the front of the car is on the right - that's where the heavy charge cable goes)

    ReplyDelete
  31. 一個人的價值,應該看他貢獻了什麼,而不是他取得了什麼.................................................................

    ReplyDelete
  32. Thanks the author for article. The main thing do not forget about users, and continue in the same spirit.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Good information friend, really nice it's seems like you loved this ride and leaf. really feature of auto industry is in hybrid or electric vehicles only..... and we need more and more number of rapid filling stations, as well reduce the filling time,
    I prefer to see the cars with solar panel at top, so that we can go green.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I just read your theme and its really interesting. Last week I came to know that the popularity of Nissan Leaf is so high that so many Leaf has already been booked. Nice Nissan... Nice its production.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Nice information while reading i too like the car and in imagine that i am driving thanks for such a description of car.

    ReplyDelete
  36. nice car LEAF. great production & features

    ReplyDelete
  37. This section was a pretty good article, I just found your blog while searching & really enjoyed reading your posts, any way i am going to subscribing to your blog feed and looking for your further post, keep on posting friend.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Travel to Coach Outlet Lumpur city and you will be Coach Outlet Online by the Coach Outlet Store Online Petronas Twin Towers at the Coach Online Outlet. The Petronas Twin Towers are 452 meters tall, contain 88 stories, Coach Outlet Online Store tallest twin structures.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Regardless of man's age, hermes belt mens watches present both classically refined and vintage inspired. Despite searching opulent, michael kors outlet.net stretch and play with their color hues from black pave crystals adorning round bezel to white ceramic bezel embellish with numeric engraving.

    ReplyDelete
  40. To get unlimited hermes belt access to

    NYTimes.com and our NYTimes apps, you’michael

    kors outlet
    ll need a subscription.

    ReplyDelete
  41. What will you choose when faced with the dynamic duo between black hermes belt and white? Elegant black and white watches come in new innovative ceramic, silicone, acrylic or plastic casing and bracelet. Gold and crystal accents lands the final touches on these watches. The Michael Kors Baguette and Glitz watches michael kors outlet have crystal embellishments surrounding the bezel and dial. The Michael Kors ceramic watches have a smooth glossy surface which is highly scratch resistant. The ceramic watches are very popular for its beauty and durableness. Choose between alluring white and sleek black Michael Kors ladies watches.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Of course
    Coach Factory Outletthese may
    Coach
    Factory
    possibly not
    Coach
    Factory
    be your
    Coach Factory Outletordinary retailer
    Coach Factory Outlet purchased ones
    Coach Factory Outletbut they
    Coach Factory Outletare sturdy
    Coach Factory Outletand can be
    Coach Factory Outletterrific for heavy
    Coach
    Factory Outlet
    duty get
    Coach Factory Outletthe job
    Coach Factory Outletdone. Army
    Coach Factory Outletcoats are also offered as perfectly as rain dress in.

    ReplyDelete
  43. I actually enjoyed reading through this posting.Many thanks.








    Sending Gifts to Chennai

    ReplyDelete
  44. Interested in shopping for a designer breitling watches from a ray ban sunglasses locations?
    These typical merchants of the corporation stock goods which are surplus,
    and all those products which could suffer small defects because of to shipment or at the time of production.
    ray ban glasses that breitling watches typically obtain goods in bulk,
    they get these products at comparatively lower price ranges and also offer prospects enticing reductions on designer goods like purses and rolex watches for sale.

    ReplyDelete
  45. If you look closely will find the words hidden in the shoes of "23", two large patterns in the upper side support, three the soles lateral bottom

    ReplyDelete
  46. --! @senquanSome LV Purses offer distinct celebration as well as live show louis vuitton handbags outlet. Louis Cardinals Passes, louis vuitton outlet online, Cleveland Indians Passes, louis vuitton purses, Kansas Area Royals Passes, authentic louis vuitton handbags, Chicago Angels Passes and many others. which has a exclusive louis vuitton outlet online. --! @senquan.

    ReplyDelete
  47. In That Respect Chanel Wallet is a wide Chanel Sunglasses range ready for Chanel bags choice including the Chanel Outlet Store black leather satin Chanel Outlet bag.

    ReplyDelete
  48. I went over this site and I believe you have a lot of fantastic information, saved to my bookmarks cartier love bracelet replica
    Cartier Trinity Ring Replica

    ReplyDelete
  49. Send cakes to chennai, cakes to chennai, cakes to chennai delivery, cakes home delivery to Chennai with www.chennaicakesdelivery.com. Online Shopping of cake for chennai delivery is secured and assured with us. You can order online cakes to Chennai and all around India. send birth day cake, wedding cake, anniversary cake with us. same day cake delivery to Chennai. our cakes are Delicious and freshly baked , made by the finest chefs in the country. Delight your loved ones with this simple and delicious combination.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Flowers to Chennai delivery are free, safe and secured with www.chennaiflowers.com. We being Local Flower Shop are cheaper than other florists in Chennai. We deliver fresh Flowers, Cakes, Sweets and other gifts on door, you can order online to send flowers to Chennai .

    ReplyDelete
  51. Flowers to Bangalore, send flowers online to Bangalore, buy fresh flowers on Birthday, get delivered Wedding flowers, Anniversary flowers, Condolence flowers, send same day flowers to Bangalore online with us.

    ReplyDelete
  52. I very much to like and agree with your point of view. Thank you for sharing. At the same time, I love best pram very much .Welcome to look at my website and blog articles

    ReplyDelete
  53. Nice tips for investment in real estate business. Thanks for sharing it.... solar pv

    ReplyDelete
  54. Send Flowers to India, Flowers to India, Send Flowers in India, Flower delivery India, Send Online flowers to India, Same day flowers to India, sending flowers to India, send flowers to India, Flower delivery India, Online Flower delivery in India, flowers online in India Send Gifts to India, Send gift to India, online gifts to India, Mother’s Day flowers to India, Rakhi to India, online gifts India, sending gifts to India, order flowers to India, online flower delivery India Flowers N Wishes is an online Florist. We deliver Flowers, Chocolates, Cakes, Dry Fruits to all the major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Pune Etc. We deliver Fresh Flowers like Roses, Zebras, Lilies, and Carnations etc. on different occasions like Valentine’s Day, Weddings, Anniversaries, Birthdays and all the occasions which one can think.
    You can book your order online at www.flowersnwishes.com and we will deliver your emotions and feelings in the form of flowers to your loved ones. We also take midnight orders which is available in the major cities.
    Book your orders online at Flowers N Wishes

    ReplyDelete
  55. Red roses proclaim "I love you." They are the ultimate symbol of romantic love and enduring passion. On this Valentine Day send beautiful Red Roses to your loved ones and show your feelings and emotions with flowersnwishes. Send Roses, Teddies, Chocolates, and Cakes to your loved ones in Mumbai. We take online orders for all the major cities in India on Valentine, Birthdays anniversary and other occasions

    Book your order online for Mumbai at Send Valentine Flowers, Chocolates, Cakes to Mumbai India

    ReplyDelete
  56. Flower delivery Chandigarh, Chandigarh Flowers, Send Flowers to Chandigarh, Online flowers to Chandigarh, Flowers to Chandigarh, Flower delivery in Chandigarh, Cake delivery in Chandīgarh, Online Shopping in Chandigarh ,Chandigarh flowers delivery, Cakes in Chandigarh ,Bakery in Chandigarh, Flowers in Chandigarh, Cake Shops in Chandigarh, Online Cake order in Chandigarh, Send Flowers in Chandigarh, Flowers Delivery Chandigarh, Chandigarh Flower delivery, Send Flowers Chandigarh, Flowers Chandigarh, Send Cakes to Chandigarh, Gifts to Chandigarh, Bouquet Delivery in Chandigarh, Flower delivery to Chandigarh, Cake and Flower delivery in Chandigarh, Send Valentine Flowers and Cakes to Chandigarh , Teddy Day Teddy to Chandigarh , Send Valentine Red Roses to Chandigarh

    Book Your order online at Flowers to Chandigarh

    ReplyDelete
  57. Fast Track Auto Parts is your source for Discount Auto Parts, Online Auto Parts, and Discount Truck Parts. Shop the best online auto parts store featuring discount OEM parts.
    http://www.fasttrackautoparts.com

    ReplyDelete
  58. Hello there

    So nice article you have been sharing. These kind of services are the most common and popular , that helps to the people to find the right one.

    Thanks for sharing

    ReplyDelete