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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Leaf - America's First REAL Electric Car

Here comes the people’s electric car, America, ready or not.

Fast-charging stations, a necessity for longer treks, are few and far between now, but a network of them are planned to begin operating within the next year or so. Leaf buyers who buy the optional $700 Quick Charge Port will be able to use a direct-current fast-charger to replenish their batteries to 80 percent of capacity within 30 minutes and continue on their way.

The next quickest solution, Nissan’s 220-volt home charging units, cost $2,200 installed and can give a full charge in eight hours, the company says. The majority of public charging stations planned will also use this so-called Level II charging protocol.

With the battery topped off, the Leaf — a midsize car as defined by the E.P.A. — has a range of 100 miles, Nissan says. In my testing, I never dared to drive the car that far, mostly because its dashboard range meter said it would not be possible.

After charging overnight in my garage on a conventional 110-volt household circuit, the Leaf’s meter never showed more than 88 miles of possible range; once, it promised as little as 66 miles. Nissan specifies a 21-hour recharge time using house current.

At a starting price of $33,630, the Leaf is by far the least expensive battery-electric car produced in significant numbers; with a 24 kilowatt-hour battery, it qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit as well as incentives offered by various states. The Leaf will be sold initially in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington; by the end of 2011 it will be offered in all states.

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