Monday, September 13, 2010

Nissan Leaf...Reserved

June 16th, 2010... The day I reserved my Nissan Leaf.

About two years ago (and two years after we bought our Prius) I vowed that my next car would be fully electric. Back then I figured it would be a plug-in Prius, or something else from Toyota. After all, they lead the way in hybrid technology.

Gotta admit, before the Leaf, I never even considered buying a Nissan. Why the change? Well because the Leaf is the first fully electric car for the masses. Skeptics will argue about the longevity of the battery life. Or that 100 miles in a single charge is not far enough. After all the $100k Tesla Roadster goes 245 miles per charge.

We don't have that kind of dough in my family. In fact the Leaf, admittedly, is a bit of a stretch too. But I fully believe that to see the world change in the ways that my wife and I want to see it change, takes sacrifices. It's not cheap to go solar and it's a risky move to buy the first mass-produced electric car. But heck, we only live once and why not take a chance on something new. Revolutionary. I can't wait for the day that I am plugging my car into an outlet whose electricity is produced by the solar panels in the back yard.

Toyota affected serious change with the Prius and I applaud them for seeing a niche and going after it with gusto. Next time you are driving around, count how many hybrid vehicles you can find. Every major automaker has at least one model.

Will more electric cars come out with longer ranges than the Leaf? I sure hope so!! With China set to have 200 million cars on the road in the next decade, I can only hope that before long, I can't drive anywhere without seeing hoards of clean, quiet electric vehicles.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, hybrids are more marketing than actual environmental improvement. The extra work/materials which go into making a hybrid are unfortunately rather harsh on the environment.

Additionally, hybrids simply don't have the longevity of a traditional internal-combusion engine car. That last sentence isn't from me, but actually comes from the owner of a large # of automotive dealerships, including Toyota and Lexus. He cited how expensive (and impractical) it is to replace the alternator/generator in a Toyota Prius. Approx $4k. on a car which might be worth only $4k. Contrast this to the $100-$200 repair for a regular Toyota Corolla.

From my own experiences, the hybrids don't deliver the mileages claimed, especially for a "typical American" heavy-footed driver. Case in point: My friend has a 2013 Lexus SUV hybrid. I drive a 2004 Nissan Gloria with a 375 HP V8 engine + 2 air cons shoehorned into it. He gets 22 mpg, I get 26 mpg. I'm no slouch either. It's not that uncommon for me to run highways approaching the century mark on the speedometer, and my car even spends some time out on the track.

Oh, I should mention that I have just about 200,000 miles on the car with the only repairs having been air conditioning compressors. I know you're not going to get that far on a hybrid without replacing some major parts, that is if the car is still on the road.

I know I'll get plenty of flack for my next statement, but really, the future is diesel. Preferably biodiesel, but diesel engines nonetheless. A 1970s Mercedes diesel could get a solid 35 mpg. Most petrol cars today only dream about getting 35 mpg. Also, even using petroleum-based diesel fuel, modern diesel cars put out fewer pollutants per mile than their petrol counterparts. Run them on biodiesel and it's an even better picture.

Hopefully someone will be able to come up with a more environmentally-friendly battery. Until then, better engines are the way to go.

Ryan said...

This is a great comment. There is no perfect answer to any of this. I've had great luck with hybrids, and love that while sitting at a traffic light or in traffic on the highway, they turn off. No emissions while gas engines are just spewing out pollution while not even moving.

Hydrogen, biodiesel, full electric... I'm all for all of it continuing to be developed. Until there is enough infrastructure to support any of it, it will always be niche. That's why hybrids have taken off - I think the stigma around the Prius has worn off... At least in my opinion, you basically sound dumb if you hate the Prius just because it is a Prius. But it and all other hybrids can use the existing gasoline infrastructure.

It's an exciting time to be alive during all this R&D... I just hope what comes out on top is better than what we have now, and that the R&D is not only fueled (bad pun) by the price of a barrel of crude oil.

My parents drove cars in the 1970's that got 40+ mpg. My Prius gets 50 mpg in the summer on the highway... and we're talking about a hybrid that burns no gas at times during the drive, and was built 40 years after those cars.

BTW, the Leaf I had reserved never panned out... No fault of Nissan's, the vehicle itself, or a change in my philosophy. It just wasn't meant to be.

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