Environment Forum

Don’t you find this car sexy?

November 14, 2009

That’s what Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn asked reporters in Los Angeles while presenting the Leaf, a pure electric car to be made for the masses and launched in late 2010. 

The hatchback to be manufactured in Tennessee starting in late 2012 is no nerdy eco-friendly car, that’s for sure. And the prototype certainly was fun to drive. Nissan set up a test course in the Dodger Stadium parking lot and even this cautious driver couldn’t help but race down the straightaway. No emissions, no tailpipe, no noise — but lots of speed, right away.

Ghosn says the Leaf goes from 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than 10 seconds, although it felt much faster than that. “This is not a golf cart,” he reminded us several times.

But he is nevertheless keen on a slow U.S. rollout because he wants to get the battery technology and consumer experience right. In the first two years, just 10,000 to 20,000 Leafs manufactured in Japan will make their way to the United States and the first will go to around 15 high-potential cities, from Seattle, down to the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego, and over to North Carolina.

Los Angeles is likely to be an early market too and sources say Nissan is negotiating partnerships for the second largest U.S. city,  where we spend way too much time in our cars. The Leaf can go 100 miles or 160 kms on a single eight-hour charge — enough for most L.A. commutes. And in a place where tailpipe emissions account for 40 percent of greenhouse gases (versus 30 percent for the nation), a Leaf fleet could make a difference in Los Angeles.

So, what do you think? Don’t you find this car sexy?

Photo credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser (Nissan’s Ghosn stands in front of the all-electric Leaf)

Comments
9 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Hi Mary – I’m Tracey Smith the British journalist who posed the question, what are Nissan doing to make their eco-vehicle ‘sexy’ to the new wave of consumers? If you’d like any more information/quotes, drop me a line. Regards, TS

 

I appreciate the attempt to clean up the environment with electric cars. However, it’s not an effective solution give the current state of the electrical grid and the number and types of electrical power plants in the US. While a purely electric car will not release greenhouse gases during its operation (some gases will be emmited but very little) it will still rely on a daily charge originating from a power plant. That plant is likely either nuclear, gas or coal fired. Nuclear plants produce approx 20% of the electrical power in the US, while coal and gas plants produce nearly 50% (and 78% of power generation carbon emissions). We will likely be burning coal or gas to charge our electric cars. If we suddenly add 10,000 electric cars which will need to be charged every day to our already over burdened electrical power grids (e.g. California), the demand for electricity will spike. What will happen to the cost of electricity? How will we respond to the higher demand? Burn more coal, gas, biomass? Build new nuclear plants? The nuclear option will take many years to accomplish, provided we can find a state or local community which will accept a new plant.Energy is neither created nor destroyed, only converted from one form to another. Each conversion suffers a loss. There can never be 100% efficiency. Adding the steps required to convert fossil fuels to electricity and transmitting it accross hundreds of miles of aging power grid to finally charge power our cars will be very inefficient. It would be interesting to see the calculations determining how much coal has to be burned to charge a fleet of electric cars that will perform well enough to be a practical transportation solution for the average person. What are the resulting greenhouse gas emission levels from all that extra coal burning? How does it compare with emmissions from the same number of new efficient gas engine commuter cars?We have to understand that we can’t get something for nothing. Electric cars must be charged. That charge must be generated somewhere. The generation of that charge will create large carbon emmisions or nuclear waste. Finally, what is the environmental impact of manufacturing and disposing of all of the battery cells which will be required to operate these tens-of-thousands of electric cars? I have a friend who owns a hybrid car now. It has nearly 600 pounds of battery in it. How do we dispose of all these batteries in 10-20 years? I agree that we must do something and start somewhere. However, we always seem to jump on a treatment for a symptom instead of finding a cure for the disease.

Posted by DC | Report as abusive
 

EVs do use electricity however the leaf will have less than half the carbon footprint of an internal combustion engine vehicle. It will emit even less than that in CA due to their avoidance of coal as a fuel source. The electric utilities are also committed to reducing their carbon footprints even further in the future.Regarding recycling of Li-Ion batteries… of course this is going to happen. It has already started and is part of the plan.Customers will typically plug their cars in overnight, when electricity is produced in over-abundance, so it will be a little while before they need to build more generating facilities. FYI, the electric utilities are looking forward to having EVs.

Posted by Barry | Report as abusive
 

If the price is right many (including myself) would buy one just for the cost savings on gasoline versus electricity. Discounting all of the environmental advantages, the sheer economic advantage should drive sales. We can generate enough clean electric power with natural gas, new coal plants (technology has made coal a clean fuel, despite the environmentalist’s outdated claims) and nuclear to run the cars in the US. My only question is: Why is there really only one viable electric car (the Tesla) available in the US?

Posted by Kenny West | Report as abusive
 

I really would like to see alternative energy sources developed to the point that they become affordable to the general population. I would love solar panels on my home; too expensive. I would love to use geothermal to heat and cool my home; too expensive. I would love to own a hybrid car; too expensive. Finally, I would love to see cheap clean energy, equivelent to that stored in a drop of gasoline, made available to power our planes, trains and automobiles; affordable!?Kenny,Good point you mentioned about the the price and availability of these vehicles. Until alternative energy sources can be made affordable to the general public they won’t be embraced. Right now, there is a small market, consisting of those who can afford to be socially and environmentally responsible. But, it looks like Nissan is targeting $25K, including the $7.5K Fed Tax rebate. That would be much better than comparably sized Hybrids on the road today.Barry,Please give me a reference for your statements about the emissions resulting from electricity production to charge these vehicles, “the leaf will have less than half the carbon footprint of an internal combustion engine vehicle.” I really would like to see the studies. What are the emissions from the amount of coal or natural gas burned to generate enough electricity, delivered accross the great distances we transmit it, to charge the leaf and operate it in a realistic regime for the duration of one charge? By comparison, what are the emissions from operating a small fuel efficient gasoline, diesel or natural gas vehicle over the same duration and driving regime? Also, as I recall, every city in America is lit-up like a Christmas tree at night. A/C and Heaters run full-tilt through the summer and winter months. Califirnia relies on elecricity imports from accross the western states to maintain its power levels during peak demand. This siphoning of electricity drives prices in those areas sourcing this higher demand and has created an uprising among environmental groups in those areas. The only recovery time available to the already stressed infrastructure is during the non-peak hours. While these vehicles are just a novelty there will not be such a large strain on the system. But there will have to be an increase in elictricity production capacity to feed the completely new demand. We can’t get something for nothing.

Posted by DC | Report as abusive
 

Interesting points, DC. I view electric cars more as a means to centralize the emissions problem on the energy producer rather than as an end-all solution for cleaning the environment. Once we shift our dependence on foreign oil to a more universal or abundant energy source, we as a nation can start working on solutions for minimizing emissions such as replacing fossil-fuel based power stations with those powered by nuclear power (which produce far less waste than fossil fuels and, by means of nuclear reprocessing, reduce most of the volume and radioactivity of waste) or renewable sources of energy– a definite step in the right direction.

Posted by MH | Report as abusive
 

MH,I agree it’s a step. I also support the building of more nuclear plants. But a better step in the right direction would be to finally invest in clean, dependable public transportation in our urban centers. Tens-of-millions commute in and out of these centers every day. Most Americans still drive thier own cars, 1 person per car, in and out of our cities every day. I see it. I admit it. I’m one of THEM.Cars like the Leaf will only be practical for those living close to or within these city centers; areas which would best be served by public transportation. Changing energy forms (most electricity still comes from burning something) is not enough. Our culture and society have to adapt. As our population grows and we pack more and more people into our urban centers we must let go of the notion that everyone in the city needs to drive thier own car. The volume of traffic within our cities has become as dangerous to us as our emissions.I have the same love afair with the automobile as every American. However, I have lived in Japan and Germany, and have visited many other countries with clean, dependable and easily accessible public transportation. If it were available here I would use it every day.Outside of our urban areas the drop in population density and the increase in distances travelled (e.g. movement of freight, movement between city centers, etc.) make public transportation and electric vehicles less practical. Here, fossil fuels will remain the mainstay. That’s a plan I would freely support with my tax dollars. Instead of just feeling like we’re doing something, we can actually do it. We have to, eventually.

Posted by DC | Report as abusive
 

Still not ready for mainstream. Who is the product for? Students, low income, city commuters? Still too many better alternatives to this. And yes style is going to matter and those cars are still a joke. Don’t care if they should be laughed at or not. They are. You see one and snicker to each other. You aren’t going to sell too many because people SHOULD want one. They have to actually want to be in it. And that’s still a major problem in the states.

 

in my view small compact car like tata’s nano(the $2000 car) is going to become more important along with electric/green cars because of fuel economy they offer.

 

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