Monday, January 24, 2011

My New LEAF Arrives!

The chemo made me do it!

After first buying a wonderful EV from Toyota eight years and 34 days ago, today I took possession of a new LEAF from Nissan. Thus begins, for me, a physical manifestation of history in the making. For decades to come, the percentage of people who burn filthy oil will grow smaller, while the percentage of people who use clean kWh generated from sunlight and wind will grow larger.

The well-publicized delay in the roll out of the LEAF these past few weeks elicited a lot of comments. I riffed off of the term "range anxiety" to coin "delivery anxiety" as stories proliferated about how upset people were due to the delay in delivering their beloved LEAFs. I could understand their concern, but still counseled patience, while taking the long view of one who has been fighting for EVs for 8 years. Surely, we can wait a few more weeks for our cars. However, last week I was told my car would come every day. It was off the boat at the harbor, they said. The realization at the end of each day that my LEAF wasn't there gave me a robust taste of delivery anxiety, with the tart taste of irony on the side.

All that faded quickly from mind when I came to work this morning to see this sweet red ride beautifully detailed by Santa Monica Nissan's hardest working employee, Juanito.

It wasn't long before a customer was sniffing around, asking questions and clearly interested in going for a drive. I hadn't even sat in the car yet, and needed to take my inaugural drive, so I invited him along. Within a mile, I pulled over and gave him the controls to my brand new car. We had a great time. He loved the acceleration, the nimble handling, and of course, the quiet. We drove a few miles looking for safe opportunities to try out the LEAF's full power. He had a big EV grin the whole time.

Less than 100 LEAFs have fallen on U.S. soil, and a few hundred Volts have been delivered. I don't think we considered how quickly or slowly the cars would actually be delivered. The reality of building bullet-proof EVs is that prudent companies will, by necessity, take their time in the initial roll out phase to be sure the quality is high. One glance at the LEAF and Volt forums confirms very happy customers, so it appears they were successful.

I've got a lot to learn before I can cover everything about this LEAF , but one feature really got my attention, and it's one that a lot of you who have driven new cars the past few years know all about. When I use bluetooth in my RAV, I have this little uncomfortable bud in my ear, and it's not that easy to hear conversations over the ambient noise. But when a call comes into the LEAF's bluetooth, the stereo cuts out and the phone call comes over the stereo system. Whoa, that's really cool! If you're hard of hearing like me, you're going to love this.

Felix Kramer of Cal Cars initiated the movement to popularize the plug-in hybrid over 9 years ago. Along with his partner, Ron Gremban, and mentor, Andy Frank, they all got their Volts a couple weeks ago. Felix called just as I was writing this to tell me he, too, got his LEAF today. We think that makes him the first person on Earth to own both a production EV and production PHEV. I can think of no one more deserving.

Given the long range capability of the Volt and the simplicity of the LEAF, these two technologies will cover virtually all of our driving. The range extended hybrids will have lots of customers who need to drive long distance often, and many commercial heavy duty vehicles will need both power sources, yet operate with efficiencies far beyond today's meager options. Those who rarely, or never drive long distances, will be fine with the nominal 100 mile range of most EVs. What's important is that only those who really need liquid fuels will use them, and by then, most of the liquid fuels will be from non-petroleum sources.

Selling the LEAF and selling solar PV to go with it is definitely the best job I've ever had. Now that I have the car at work, I'll be able to give test drives to anyone anytime.

Someone called me as I was leaving work tonight, said they represented "a royal family" and offered me a huge number for my LEAF. I haven't even owned it for a full work day and this guy wants it for "his client". It was weird, because I didn't even hesitate to say no. Not after waiting all this time would I let this car go to anyone.

Now, the RAV is another story. Zan's going to use it till I find it a good home. If you know anyone who would appreciate one of the few remaining historic Toyota RAV4 EVs that propelled a few dozen otherwise normal people into becoming zealots for a cause, please have them contact me.