While the Leaf's styling won't be winning any beauty contests, what it will do is give prospective buyers a sense of uniqueness without breaking the norm. That's more evident with the interior design that has an almost concept-feeling to it. For the record, the Leaf is not a prototype study as what you see, is 99-percent what you'll get when the Leaf hits showrooms in late 2010.
Unveiled today at Nissan's Japanese headquarters in Yokohama, the zero-emissions Nissan Leaf is a dedicated, mass production electric-vehicle that is slated for launch in late 2010 in Japan, the United States, and Europe. Slightly larger than the Tiida, the medium-sized five-door hatchback is based on a unique platform and it is equipped with a fully electric drivetrain that consists of a 107HP electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack that can be charged through any home outlet providing a driving range of more than 160km (100 miles).
"Our car had to be the world's first, medium-size, practical EV that motorists could afford and would want to use every day. And that's what we've created," said Masato INOUE, Nissan Product Chief Designer. "The styling will identify not only Nissan LEAF but also the owner as a participant in the new era of zero-emission mobility."
An interesting detail concerns the headlights which have been designed to split and redirect airflow away from the door mirrors, in order to reduce wind noise and drag. According to Nissan, the lights provide yet one more benefit in that they consume just 10 percent of the electricity of conventional lamps.
At 4,445mm (175-in.) long, 1,770mm wide (69.7-in.) with a height of 1,550mm (61-in.) and a wheelbase of 2,700mm (106.3-in.), the Leaf is larger than your usual C-segment hatch. For example, the VW Golf is 4,199mm long (165-in.), 1,779mm wide (70-in.) with a height of 1,479mm (58.2-in.) and a wheelbase of 2,578mm (101.5-in.).
But whereas conventional hatchbacks like the Golf use internal combustion engines, the front-wheel drive Leaf is equipped with a fully electric drivetrain. Power is provided by an electric motor that delivers 80kW or 107-horsepower and 280Nm (206 lb-ft) of torque while energy is drawn from a combination regenerative braking system and a lithium-ion battery pack positioned underneath the cabin floor to save space.
The Leaf's batteries can be charged up to 80% of its full capacity in just under 30 minutes with a quick charger while a full charge at home through a 200V outlet is estimated to take approximately eight hours. The socket for the Leaf's charging plug is hidden underneath a flap with the firm's logo on the bonnet.
In theory, the idea sounds right, but we can help but wonder how buyers that live in large cities and do not own a garage will be able to charge the car's battery - let alone if the batteries are depleted away from home. Nissan said that it is addressing this problem with the development of a comprehensive charging infrastructure through public and private investment with its Zero-emission mobility programmes.
The Japanese automaker said that it has formed partnerships with countries such as the UK and Portugal, local governments in Japan and the USA, and other sectors, for a total of nearly 30 partnerships worldwide.
Nissan claims that the Leaf will have a driving range in excess of 160 km or 100 miles while the hatchback will be able to achieve a top speed of over 90mph or 140 km/h.
The Leaf will also come equipped with an advanced IT system that will be connected to a global data centre, providing support, information, and entertainment for drivers 24 hours a day.
Nissan will build the Leaf at its Oppama plant, Japan, with additional capacity planned for the firm's Smyrna plant in Tennessee, USA. The EV's lithium-ion batteries are being produced in Zama, Japan, with additional capacity planned for the USA, the UK and Portugal, and other sites around the world.