It was one year ago today…

by Ernie Hernandez on April 20, 2011

nismo LEAF

That Nissan brought about the dawn of a new era in automobiles

April 20, 2010 will be remembered by electric vehicle (EV) enthusiasts everywhere as the day that changed the future of the automobile.

Too melodramatic you say? Think about it. Nissan has ushered in a sea change in this industry that has been too long in coming. The internal combustion engine has ruled for over a century as the moving force – literally – of the entire industry. With the introduction of the Nissan LEAF, the future course of the automobile has changed. In our thinking – for the better.

Our thought for some time was that Nissan would re-open for new reservations on this date. Mother nature had something to say about that as Nissan, all of Japan, and much of the world was (and will continue to be) impacted by one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history. I am personally amazed at the resilience, determination, and sheer will of a nation that absorbs such an enormous blow, and does its best to continue on.

That said, Nissan announced today that reservations will reopen on May 1, 2011. This does come with some caveats; reservations will reopen initially in the launch states of Arizona, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington. Also, so-called “handraisers” – those who have previously indicated an interest in the LEAF (340,000 strong) – are to get first dibs. With Oppama Japan production capacity still limited to (hopefully) 50,000 per year for global consumption, and Nissan’s Smyrna Tennessee plant not due to come online until late 2012 with its projected (ultimate) annual capacity of 150,000 units, it may be quite some time until LEAFs are seen roaming freely about the country.

In better news, the first ship of post-earthquake LEAFs are due to arrive in the United States on April 27. Nissan states that they are still on track to fulfill all current customer orders by the end of this summer – a statement that has been made before, and one that Nissan seems committed to keeping. We understand that the order that LEAFs are being delivered does not correlate with the order in which they were ordered. We have no understanding of why this is, and don’t look to Nissan to provide an explanation. Google doesn’t tell us when, why or how they change their search algorithms. They just do it. No matter the industry, as consumers we are always subject to the will of the provider. We can be frustrated. We can be upset. But there is very little that we can do about it, other than to just walk away. Or we can just decide to accept it. We each have our own situations and no one will know your situation better than you do yourself. In the end, we each make the decisions that are best suited for our own situations and we all move on with our lives.

A couple of other quick notes – April 22 is Earth Day and the movie “Revenge of the Electric Car”  will premier at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. We note this because, among others, LEAF will be a featured player in the movie. Click on the link to see the trailer.

Oh… and that picture up there? That’s the Nissan LEAF NISMO RC. (For those new to the world of Nissan and/or LEAF, the vehicle name is just loaded with acronyms – LEAF (Leading Environmentally friendly Affordable Family car (I think I got that right)), NISMO (Nissan Motorsports), RC (Racing Competition)). It seems to have shed a couple of doors from the outside, a couple inches in ride height, reduction in overall height (over a foot!) and gained an appendage. On the inside, it has apparently shed a back seat, trunk, audio and navigation systems (I guess they figure the driver knows where he’s going), carpets and other such niceties. All of these changes reduced the weight by about 40%. For all of you performance freaks out there (and we know that there are some), this equates to one quick car. Zero to 60 miles per hour in under 7 seconds (not blindingly fast, but not too shabby for a car with only 107 horsepower). Top speed will be similar to the roadgoing version. For those wondering why it’s not faster – the top speed of the LEAF is mechanically limited, not aero limited as with most cars. The electric motor only spins so fast and there is a one speed reduction gear. Top speed is determined by the diameter of the tires. We wrote an article about this awhile back. If you are curious about the potential of an electric cars performance capability, you might want to check out this video, and some of the related content (in one of the videos you can see this 1972 electric Datsun beat a new Nissan GT-R).

Here’s looking forward to the next 100 years.

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