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.