Electric Cars Aren’t For Prime Time Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

Last week, I wrote a piece called This Is Why Electric Cars Aren’t Ready For Prime Time. It was about the $122,000 Tesla Roadster.

Well, now Nissan is rolling out its new electric car, the Leaf, and after looking at the specs, I thought it was worth doing a follow-up post. First off, the car is much more affordable than many of the other electric cars that have been introduced to the market. Supposedly, the cost is going to be somewhere in the 10,000 to 15,000 dollar range.

The other details, well, let’s just say that they’re not very appealing,

The LEAF is a five-door, mid-size hatchback that is supposed to have a range of 100 miles per charge on lithium-ion batteries. Why 100 miles? Because that’s the distance that Nissan says will take care of 70% of the world’s drivers. And it’s different than Volt:

Just one catch. Unlike the Volt, the LEAF doesn’t have a backup gasoline engine. When it runs out of electric power, it’s done — until it’s recharged.

The LEAF is supposed to make its debut about the same time as the Volt, late 2010 in the U.S., Europe and Japan.

“We have been working tirelessly to make this day a reality – the unveiling of a real-world car that has zero – not simply reduced – emissions,” said Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn in a statement.It’s the first step in what is sure to be an exciting journey – for people all over the world, for Nissan and for the industry.”

LEAF is designed to be charged up to 80% of its full capacity in just under 30 minutes with a quick charger. Charging at home through a 200-volt outlet is estimated to take approximately eight hours. To conserve power, the car has features like LED headlights. The front end is designed to cut wind drag with such touches as diverting wind away from the door mirrors.

You will be able to order LEAF initially in any color as long as it’s blue, chosen to play up the car’s earth-friendly characteristics.

To begin with, I’m not really a “car guy,” but I think the car’s ugly.

Nissan Headquarters Return To Its Birthplace Yokohama

It also only comes in one color, which is a little too “early 1900’s” for my taste. Of course, this car is probably really being marketed to the eco-hippies who are too poor to buy the other electric cars on the market, so maybe it makes sense for that niche market. After all, at the end of the day, they’re going to buy this car so they can tell everyone how environmentally conscious they are, not because they want the best looking car for their buck.

However, the Leaf has the same huge problem as the Tesla Roadster: an inferior engine. Supposedly, the Leaf goes 100 miles without a recharge, but in the real world, the Tesla Roadster only got about 75% of the mileage it claimed per charge. It wouldn’t be surprising if the same thing were true for the Leaf and even if it wasn’t, a 100 mile range just doesn’t cut it — particularly when the battery takes somewhere between 30 minutes to 8 hours to recharge. The slogan for these cars should be: “The Leaf — it makes driving into a hassle!”

Until electric cars can become competitive with gas powered cars in range and the time it takes to replenish the car’s fuel, it’s hard to see how they’re ever going to be able to take off.

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