Last week I was sitting in on a meeting with colleagues and the conversation gravitated towards automobiles. A few people shared stories on what they were planning to buy in the near future. I jumped in and mentioned I was interested in the forthcoming Nissan Leaf, an all-electric vehicle that will go on sale late 2011 here in Canada.
A few of my colleagues quickly retorted, saying the Leaf is a cost prohibitive vehicle with unproven technology that should probably be avoided for the next couple years.
I’m not so sure.
While I’ll agree many of the big auto manufacturers have made significant strides in fuel economy on a number of current and soon to be available models, they all however still base their designs largely upon the internal combustion engine. So from my perspective we’re all driving around in vehicles built on 100+ year-old antiquated technologies.
The Nissan Leaf on the other hand has no transmission, exhaust or spark plugs and gets a whopping 99 miles per gallon (Miles per Gallon of Gasoline Equivalent (MPGe) 1 gallon of gasoline=33.7 kw-hr) or 73 miles (117.482 km) on a single charge. Even more impressive, the Leaf’s ability to drive the equivalent of 25 miles (40.2336 km) for just under $1.
To put this in perspective, the highly touted Chevy Volt (priced approximately $7,000 more than the Leaf) will only go about 35 miles (56.3270 km) on a single charge before the extended range gasoline engine kicks in. The Volt will drive the equivalent of 25 miles (40.2336 km) for $2.72 with a charging time that doubles the Leaf. At the other end of the spectrum, a Chevy Corvette will only take you about 6 miles (9.65606 km) for that same $1.
I for one will be happily grinning ear to ear when I can stop forking out over $60+ to fill the tank of my so-called economical Honda Civic. Yeah there might be a few bugs to be ironed out with the Leaf’s battery system—namely our bitterly cold Canadian winters—but I’m willing to bet these and other issues will eventually be resolved and are absolutely worth it. In the end it just feels good to support new products built on innovative thinking and design. Products and systems that aim to move us beyond the sometimes stagnating loop of the technological establishment, for example continued petroleum dependence, are vitally important and worth supporting.