Blogosphere Responds to Nissan’s Electric Car

When Nissan yesterday unveiled the name and photos of the all-electric Nissan Leaf, it did not provide significant new information. But revealing the name and design was enough to give a jolt to green car fans on the web. No longer an amorphous concept, Nissan’s electric car can now be stacked up against other plug-in cars and hybrids for its look and feel, features, and likely cost. The reviews from the blogosphere—usually an irreverent crowd—were mixed.

Nissan Leaf Electric Car
Ford Focus

Top: Nissan Leaf
Bottom: Ford Focus

The Nissan Leaf’s closest comparable future all-electric car is the Ford Focus EV. The two vehicles are remarkably similar in size and capabilities. Both vehicles are expected to offer 100 miles in driving range. The Nissan Leaf’s lithium ion battery pack has a capacity of 24 kilowatt hours, while the Focus EV holds 23 kilowatt hours of energy. Both vehicles will carry five passengers and measure 175 inches in length, while the Nissan Leaf has a longer wheelbase by about three inches.

Although the Nissan Leaf, due in late 2010, is expected to beat the Ford Focus EV to the market by about one year, it’s likely that the Leaf’s first customers will predominantly be fleets. In other words, the two vehicles will become available roughly in the same timeframe. Official pricing has not been released for either vehicle, but both are expected in the $30,000 range.

The distinguishing characteristic could be design—pitting the established look of the Ford Focus against the purpose-built Nissan Leaf. (Ford has not confirmed if the Focus EV will differ from the conventional Focus.) When we spoke last November with Mark Perry, Nissan’s director of product planning, he said, “We want to make sure [the design] is iconic, as something different, unique and futuristic. But not in a Blade Runner, George Jetson kind of way.” That was not the impression many blog commenters had.

Nissan Leaf Electric Car
Ford Focus

Top: Nissan Leaf
Bottom: Ford Focus

Richard S posted this comment on HybridCars.com: “Pretty ugly. If the Focus EV looks anything close to the current Focus, then Nissan’s gonna have a rough time.” An anonymous visitor wrote: “This thing looks like something that came out of a cleaning lab. Kind of makes me think this thing is going to start selling me cleaning products.”

Comments from other sites offered a number of colorful descriptions, including “the offspring of a Smurf and a the Pillsbury Dough Boy,” and “a Nissan Murano meets a catfish,” and “what would happen if a Mazda3 and a Toyota Matrix had a baby.”

Sean, posting on AutoBlog.com, explained the Prius-like front slope by writing, “I personally like the design, the front is the aerodynamic shape but the back end is more unique, not the typical teardrop.” Writing on GM-Volt.com, a fan site dedicated to the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, Don C wrote: “The design seems pleasant enough. I like it subjectively. Plus the design more or less tells you what the car is. It says ‘I’m a little guy with cool tech suitable for driving locally’.” Don C believes would be a mistake to make the car look “like a super car.”

The Nissan Leaf will be arriving almost exactly when the Chevy Volt is introduced in late 2010—although it appears that the Volt will be priced $10,000 or more above the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus EV. Automotive News reported today that production costs for the Chevy Volt are “running far above projections.” According to the trade publication, the price will be about $40,000—and General Motors is struggling to keep down the costs. All of these competing electric-drive vehicles are expected to benefit from $7,500 consumer tax credits.

Although it will be more expensive, the Chevy Volt is a plug-in hybrid offering a driving range equal of beyond most gas-powered cars, while the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus EV, and other electric cars will be limited to approximately 100 miles in range. The new plug-in cars will also be competing against conventional hybrids, like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, which are priced in the low- to mid-$20,000s. Toyota and Honda are both expected to introduce compact or sub-compact hybrids that could be priced even lower.

When all these choices become available, consumers interested in cutting-edge fuel-efficient technologies will have to make sense of the new automotive landscape—balancing considerations for driving range, price, fuel efficiency, drivetrain technologies, and design.


  • TD

    According to this article the price for the Nissan Leaf will be about $15K.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/02/leaf-nissan-unveils-new-e_n_249673.html

  • Indigo

    $30k for a car that has a 100 mile range and required a dedicated 220v charger is kinda pushing it. I’d be interested in getting one of these if the price was closer to $25k.

    The Volt, on the other hand, is a joke and a vapor. If it ever gets built at all, it’ll probably cost closer to $50k.

  • simno@syd

    actually i prefer the leaf to the ford.

  • wooac

    Presumably the production Leaf will have some of these sharp edges removed and the VW Rabbit like back end will be reworked. This prototype is giving up about 10% in drag coefficient to the Prius and Insight designs.

  • David

    The Volt is hardly vapor. Pre-production has already started, meaning the assembly line is in place and that probably cost well over a billion dollars. For the next year, tests will be run on the Volts coming off the line to fix/improve/tweak the process. Now, if you can believe some marketing drones, you’ll actually be able to see one at Epcot’s “Test Track” attraction in Florida. According to one of the people there, they’ve been pushing to get a Volt in front of the thousands of people who pass through the ‘showcase’ after the ride every day – and they’re being told by GM that they could see one next month.

  • Scott Z

    Oh David wake up!

    The Volt is total vapor. Most of what GM says is just to work on their image when it comes to green products and ideas. I have read about GM’s Volt and or their skateboard concept for well over ten years now. Nothing has show up at the show room floor.

    I for one like the new Nissan. I personally wrote off Nissan after their CEO said “Hybrids are a dead end and we will not build them” Then Nissan went so far as to just lease Toyota’s hybrid system for their Altima so they can sell cars in seven states that required them. Seems Nissan has not been sold to the oil companies of the world or has escaped some what, but that remains to be seen.

    The Leaf sound like a great car for getting to work in. Most of us drive less than 25 miles to get to work. You do not need a special charger unless you plan on recharging in 30 min. You can just use a 220 plug at your home. If you have an electric clothes dryer you have seen a 220 plug.

    The funny part is what if GM never stopped their EV project back in the 90s? I bet they would be on top right now. Pay back can hurt no?

  • Bryce

    Actually, the facility the pre-production Volts are being made in is not the final assembly plant, but a specific pre-production facility. This is where vehicles go for pre-production construction and evaluation. The workers here are mostly engineers and not so much regular Joes.

    On another note, having spent well over a billion dollars, having the Volt as merely a PR stunt would be an expensive way to get the word out. It would make sense to field it on the market to atleast make-up some of that money. There has even been talk of sliding the Voltec drivetrain into other vehicles such as the Orlando MPV coming out in a year or two or a specially designed small Caddy.

    Finally though, you guys should probably show the images of the next generation Focus when referencing the electric version. In spy shots it has shown to be nearly identical to the Euro-spec version, which I must say is significantly better than the half-hearted version we get here in the North American Market.

  • ACAGal

    Considering the rear view of both gars, I see the Nissan tries to shade the read window of the leaf with a spoiler, which usually helps conserve fuel. The Ford rear window is closer to what was on the long defunct Barracuda. Visually sleeker, but the passenger compartment can become so much hotter.

    I haven’t been to Europe recently enough to know what their Fusion looks like.

  • CB

    I think the Ford is just another example of generic unimaginative design all too typical of the domestics for years. I too prefer the Nissan design and approach.

  • Meekman

    To me, the current Ford Focus is just plain boring. The exterior styling appears more than a decade old. Now, Nissan gave the Leaf designers a little too much range of creativity. The bubble eyes are what bothers me the most. If the car is available in darker shades (which is more than likely), I’m sure the lights wouldn’t bother me as much. Right now, it kinda reminds me of a Muppet.

    The Focus interior is pretty nice, but I do love the Leaf’s interior quite a bit. That’s what cars should head towards in the next decade. 100 mile range is okay if that is accurate (with air conditioning, radio on, etc.). But if that number jumps down to around a 75 mile range, then people who live 35-40 miles away from their jobs might be a little concerned every time they take it out. A solar panel option would be ideal for that. I’m also concerned about the batteries only lasting five years. That could be a huge expense or hurt the resale value a lot.

    Anyway, I know that a lot people who are afraid of change will go for the Ford Focus … but there are a lot of new drivers out there that like to move away from the pack and be different, so they’ll pick the Leaf. I think Ford should have something a bit different for their new Focus EV, maybe a fusion of the two cars, but they definitely need a change from what they have now.

  • Meekman

    Correction: I meant the Ford Fusion interior is nice with its digital display.
    The current Focus interior is just okay, not really for me.

  • Mr.Bear

    The Leaf looks like it is wearing braces in much the same way the Edsel looked like it was sucking a lemon.

    The car doesn’t look like it would be worth $30,000 in terms of breakeven cost. You have to figure, if the Prius starts around $22,000 and the average sells for $25,000 then the average leaf is going to sell for $33,000. Assuming a vehicle is traded out of a fleet at 100,000 miles, The average price of gas would have to average about $4.00/gallon over the life of the vehicle for it to break even between the two cars.

    Besides, it looks more like a Versa than anything else. Who wants to pay $30,000 for an electric Versa? That’s a premium of $17,000 just for the electric engine.

  • Scott Z

    I do hope I am wrong Bryce. I would love to see the Volt succeed. I just have zero faith in GM. Their track record is the worst in the industry from my view point.

  • Rom

    I too am rooting for the leaf. I WISH I could like an American car as much as I do my current Toyota. I just haven’t seen anything that catches my attention in both innovation, design and reliability.

    That said, I’m not going to spend a load of cash on a short range vehicle either. Out of pocket (after whatever kick back) should not be more than $17k for this car.

  • Well Duh!

    Mr. Bear,

    You are absolutely correct and completely miss the point all at the same time.

    The first generation Prius also made no sense based on how much fuel it would save over the life of the car (let alone the first 100,000 miles), especially considering gas cost $2.00/gal back in 2002. But here we are today with the 3rd Generation Prius-one of the best selling cars in America.

    In the beginning, thousands of enthusiasts, “tree huggers”, and geek engineers will flock to the first mass produced electric car. It really doesn’t matter whether it makes economic sense. Over time gas prices will rise, and electric technology will improve, especially battery technology, and electric cars will become economically viable, just as hybrid cars are doing today.

  • Bryce

    Scott, I too hope they don’t mess up. We will see I suppose.

    In the meantime, everyone please stop referencing this vehicle as the future Focus that the electric drivetrain will be in. If you really want an idea of what it will look like, go to ford.com and go to their european website. That focus is about what we will be getting in a year or two with the electric drivetrain in it. The North American market Focus will soon be defunct, so don’t worry.

  • tapra2

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