With San Diego as “Ground Zero,” Nissan Targets Pragmatic Car Buyers With Leaf EV—and We Take It for A Test Hum

7/8/10Follow @bvbigelow

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get EV charging stations under a $99.8-million matching grant the federal Department of Energy awarded last summer to Ecotality (NASDAQ: ECTY), a company based in Scotsdale, AZ, that specializes in EV charging infrastructure. Under the DOE program, Nissan is deploying close to 5,000 Leaf EVs in 11 metropolitan markets in five states. San Diego, the only California metro area enrolled in the program, is expected to get all 1,000 of California’s Leafs and close to 2,500 charging stations.

Nissan Leaf EV 2That doesn’t mean Leaf EVs won’t be available elsewhere in California or the U.S. for that matter. The Japanese carmaker plans to manufacture 50,000 Leafs during its first year of production, and those cars will be distributed for sale around the world, including Nissan dealers throughout the United States. But federal funding for installing the charging stations has been limited to the 11 metro areas in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and Tennessee—and EVs are expected to proliferate more rapidly in those areas. Perry says he expects to sell 3,000 to 4,000 Leaf EVs in San Diego alone.

“You’ll see other EVs out there doing a hundred or 500 vehicles,” Perry says. “We’re doing tens of thousands of vehicles.”

About 15,000 people in the U.S. have paid a refundable $99 reservation fee that allows them to purchase a Leaf when the EV becomes available, according to Nissan. About 5,000 of those prospective buyers are in California, including more than 1,000 in San Diego.

Nissan says the compact Leaf hatchback seats five, but the car is so small, it’s really just a four-seater. The carmaker also says … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • Jerry Jeff

    Real-life driving range per charge will be a big hurdle for me. If it’s only 50 miles on a winter day that could be a deal breaker. But I totally applaud Nissan for this effort. Next, who’s going to clean up our power plants?

  • Lawrence Weisdorn

    This is a giant step in the right direction. Drop in a hydrogen fuel cell and you won’t be range challenged any more.

  • John A.

    Man, this is so long overdue! Our grandchildren will scarcely believe we put up with anything so frighteningly problematic as gasoline-powered automobiles!

  • gondwanalon

    How long does the battery last? How much will a replacement battery cost?

  • Dave in Detroit

    The LEAF design is interesting compared to other EV’s on the drawing board and Nissan deserves credit for launching first. But for any EV, don’t plan on using the AirCon much if you need range.

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/bbigelow/ Bruce V. Bigelow

    Thanks for the great comments and questions.

    Nissan’s Mark Perry told me the Leaf’s laminated lithium ion battery back, which is under the floor, is designed to last 10 years and still operate at 70-80 percent of original capacity. Nissan says it has been developing its own battery for the past 18 years or so. The carmaker also has plans to develop a secondary market for used Leaf batteries, most likely for use in backup energy storage for electric utilities and in cell phone networks. The question I didn’t think to ask is whether a Leaf owner would be able to sell the battery, or how this resale market would work.