The new Nissan LEAF electric car

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reikiman
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The new Nissan LEAF electric car

Nissan has unveiled a long-awaited electric car, and it's looking pretty good. A couple of Nissan marketing people happened to give a presentation to the San Francisco EV association meeting (SFEVA) which gave a lot of great information.

100 mile range .. lithium-ion-manganese battery back .. 26 kwh pack size .. 80 kw motor .. 90 miles/hr top speed .. onboard navigation that includes display of expected range and nearby charging stations .. looks nice to me.

I've written two examiner.com articles: Nissan announces the LEAF, an affordable zero-emissions electric car and Range anxiety and the new Nissan LEAF EV

Motor Trend has a couple in-depth articles:

http://blogs.motortrend.com/6564081/green/driving-the-future-nissans-all-new-electric-vehicle/index.html

http://blogs.motortrend.com/6537775/green/zero-emissions-all-green-introducing-the-nissan-leaf/index.html

EVWORLD has a rundown of Nissan's EV history: http://evworld.com/news.cfm?newsid=21497

marcopolo
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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car

I have been watching the development of attempts to build an all electric plug in car, with eager anticipation. The Nissan model you feature, is very close to validating that only a major motor manufacturer can create a reliable, economic and credible EV of this type. It is yet to be seen if the Nissan LEAF will be the breakthrough vehicle. The range isn't too bad and the cost isn't too horrendous, so the prognosis is that this could be the first generation of a rapidly improving range that will sweep the ICE into automotive history.

The acceptance of EV's would be greatly aided if governments were to really enforce speed safety limits by governing ALL vehicles, to a speed not exceeding 75 mph.

Initially EV's of this type will still be range limited and cost a premium over ICE contemporaries. Curiously, the premium price will prove to be a marketing asset, as the new models will enter the market in the premium/prestige/ minor luxury segment. This market segment is easily able to absorb the extra purchase cost, and will heavily subsidise the establishment of EV's as creditable alternative transport investments, rather than enthusiast or hobbyist oddballs. This market segment enjoys the education, income and motivation to be fashionably 'green', along with an enormous potential in the Hire Market.Who knows hopefully, the EV may replace the current fashion for enormous SUV's that spend 90% of time congesting expensive suburban street and shopping centres!(environmentalists do not purchase such technology, preferring to ride bikes or drive old VW's!)

I am eager to see the response from the other majors, rushing to catch up with GM, Ford, Toyota, S&T, etc.. in the EV stakes. William Clay Ford, must be given credit to be the first Automotive Chairman, to foresee the day when Energy (Electric Power) Corporations will make far better Industry partners and investors than the Oil Industry.

We live in exciting times!

marcopolo

reikiman
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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car

Initially EV's of this type will still be range limited and cost a premium over ICE contemporaries. Curiously, the premium price will prove to be a marketing asset, as the new models will enter the market in the premium/prestige/ minor luxury segment. This market segment is easily able to absorb the extra purchase cost, and will heavily subsidise the establishment of EV's as creditable alternative transport investments, rather than enthusiast or hobbyist oddballs. This market segment enjoys the education, income and motivation to be fashionably 'green', along with an enormous potential in the Hire Market.Who knows hopefully, the EV may replace the current fashion for enormous SUV's that spend 90% of time congesting expensive suburban street and shopping centres!(environmentalists do not purchase such technology, preferring to ride bikes or drive old VW's!)

I think there's some truth to what you're saying. For example last fall in the depths of the economic meltdown I was at a Green Jobs conference and a speaker talking about the organic food industry said a similar thing. That it's a lifestyle choice to spend more on organic food, the cost isn't so much much of a factor as is the rightness or something like that of buying organic. BTW in California the word "Organic" has actual specific legal meaning unlike lots of other places.

At the SFEVA meeting with Nissan folk we did talk about this issue. It was a great meeting to be a part of because of being a room full of electric vehicle experts with the people at Nissan developing this EV. One of the presenters was their western region corporate communications guy, the other is the senior manager in product planning for the LEAF.

Nissan guys said clearly they understood that at the end price is the #1 determiner.

However the thing we talked about was to focus on total cost of ownership rather than purchase price. Consumer Reports supposedly has done a good job educating people on total cost of ownership. And one of the factors that led to popularity of the Gen II Prius is the consumers groking that the Prius has a lower total cost of ownership.

EV's in general have an even lower total cost of ownership due to lower maintenance costs.

One of the people asked a couple times a question which they dodged. Namely: What will lower maintenance requirements mean for Nissan's business model?

The past business model for car companies is to rely on maintenance expenses to maintain the business. This is replacement parts and repairs often done in the service department of the dealer. I think this existing business model is one of the reasons car companies have fought against moving to EV's ... that there's a huge industry in car repair and there needs to be just enough unreliability in cars so that we will take our car to the shop for repairs.

Another question they didn't answer is the battery pack lifetime (# of charge cycles).

- David Herron, The Long Tail Pipe, davidherron.com, 7gen.com, What is Reiki
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marcopolo
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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car

Interesting, Obviously the traditional mechanical repair and service business will undergo some radical changes, but they have been a rapidly declining part of auto-manufacturers business model for some time now.

More relevant is the battery cost in affecting second-hand EV prices. But batteries haven't been a huge factor in determining second hand prices in Prius, so maybe the new buyer thinks that with a battery-lfe of ten or more years, the new buyer doesn't care as it won't be his problem, and second hand buyers just factor the cost of a new battery into the purchase price. Or maybe figure it's a way of getting a new car at a discount? ? (or maybe, second-hand dealers just don't understand the eventual cost)

but interesting ?

marcopolo

MikeB
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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car

I rather like this car, and would almost buy it. However, I have a regular drive that is 120 miles, and I tend to go out Fri evening or Sat morning, and return Sun afternoon. If Nissan were to offer a range-extending option, like a small towed trailer with a gas/diesel generator (and a little electronic integration), I'd probably put my name on the list.

My electric vehicle: CuMoCo C130 scooter.

reikiman
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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car

I wonder what you think about using charging stations as part of your driving...?

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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car

This is very close to what I think would be a tipping point - especially if they can keep it closer to the $25K end of the reported "$25K to $30K" target price (and assuming that price includes the price of the battery).

The Nissan model you feature, is very close to validating that only a major motor manufacturer can create a reliable, economic and credible EV of this type.

I certainly agree with you that a major manufacturer is best placed in terms of required capabilities and resources. However, I don't see how you can extrapolate to say that only a major manufacturer could achieve this. I'm in no way referring to CuMoCo and our products - cars are a couple of orders of magnitude more difficult a problem to solve than two-wheelers. However, with a CuMoCo like company which had a couple of orders of magnitude more money and more people I could bring a 100/80/20 4 seater, 4 wheel EV to market (now, how's that for hubris!)

The problem isn't the engineering or the technology. The problem is the business model and the marketing effort. Thus a new company without the baggage could actually be well placed to succeed.

But back to the LEAF - it's exciting. I really hope that we see two or three similar offerings in the market place within the next two to three years.

John H. Founder of Current Motor Company - opinions on this site belong to me; not to my employer
Remember: " 'lectric for local. diesel for distance" - JTH, Amp Bros || "No Gas.

marcopolo
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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car

I'm not sure I agree with a figure as low as $25-35k, the market would easily stand a really well executed EV at $45-50K. Yes the Leaf would be better at say 70 mph and 160 mile range, but we'll see.

Cars are really a huge difference in consumer expectations. Now the Tesla is not a mass manufactured volume consumer EV, like Prius/Lexus. (I know they're hybrids!). However the point is still valid, how would you produce a 4 seat 4 wheel EV, with all original components? If you had that sort of logistical capacity and capital, you would be a major automaker! Oh don't tell me Chinese components! The chinese manufacturers just buy (or steal)6 year old Japanese dies and reproduce pretty badly made, crude versions.

But, two wheels, thats different, different market expectations. I think with no Vectrix, there really is a market for CoMoCo, and it is very heartening to see you persevering!

We live in exciting times.

marcopolo

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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car

how would you produce a 4 seat 4 wheel EV, with all original components?

I wouldn't. That's mistake #1 - why does an EV have to be made with all original components? Look at the LEAF - how many millions do you think were spent on the body and interior makeover? Why? Didn't they like their other small cars?

There are reputable component suppliers for every part of the car - and there are reputable car manufacturers in Asia (and likely elsewhere) that would be willing to supply rolling chassis.

Any new product is a risky proposition. So one should mitigate the risk. Put the EV drive in an already well accepted model.

John H. Founder of Current Motor Company - opinions on this site belong to me; not to my employer
Remember: " 'lectric for local. diesel for distance" - JTH, Amp Bros || "No Gas.

reikiman
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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car
how would you produce a 4 seat 4 wheel EV, with all original components?

I wouldn't. That's mistake #1 - why does an EV have to be made with all original components? Look at the LEAF - how many millions do you think were spent on the body and interior makeover? Why? Didn't they like their other small cars?

There are reputable component suppliers for every part of the car - and there are reputable car manufacturers in Asia (and likely elsewhere) that would be willing to supply rolling chassis.

Any new product is a risky proposition. So one should mitigate the risk. Put the EV drive in an already well accepted model.

The Nissan guys at the SFEVA meeting claimed they did a ground-up new design because of component placement within "the package". Translating to normal-speak I think they mean an ICE vehicle is optimized for layout of gasoline burning components, and to optimize for electric components means a different vehicle layout.

I tend to agree with you John, they have some vehicle designs which are proved to be sellable car bodies, and that they already have factories tooled up to build. Wouldn't it be simpler for them to just develop a simple EV design on those existing bodies and divert some of the existing production prior to the point of installing the ICE junk and send the diverted vehicles down a line that installs an electric motor, controller, batteries, etc.

But having never worked in a factory nor on industrial automation I may be naive about this.

Because they did a ground-up design it looks to be a flexible platform on which any car body could be installed. On the Motortrend blog site is an article showing pictures of the innards. The drive train & battery pack are build onto the frame. This part is really thin being only a little taller than the frame, with a bulge at the end where the motor and controller system sit.

I'd think that if the LEAF is successful they could field more vehicles using the same base frame design and simply bolting on a different upper part. They couldn't do that if they'd just done a simple conversion design.

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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car

The Nissan guys at the SFEVA meeting claimed they did a ground-up new design because of component placement within "the package". Translating to normal-speak I think they mean an ICE vehicle is optimized for layout of gasoline burning components, and to optimize for electric components means a different vehicle layout.

I don't doubt that a custom design would be better for an EV. However successful engineering project management (and really any project management) is the art of compromise. Personally I'd leave the improved body and the visions of building other vehicles on the same platform for revision two (or three or four). Get something out there using as much off the shelf as you can and then let the exercise of actually doing that and what the market actually tells you inform your future decisions. Save your resources because this is a marathon not a sprint. Unfortunately large organizations are often controlled by yearly budget cycles and it becomes hard for department to conserve resources beyond year end (lest the accountants take away funding in future years because they didn't spend it in the year it was allocated).

The "initially as much off the shelf" approach is the one which CuMoCo is taking with our two wheeler, Vectrix took a more Nissan-like approach and came up with a design "optimized" for EV. How well did that work for them? (And, yes, of course it remains to be seen how well our approach will work for CuMoCo).

Note that we've already learned a lot about where we will be focusing our attention - and guess what? It's not where we would necessarily have chosen to focus before the exercise of actually delivering a product. There's a lot of validity to "learning through doing".

John H. Founder of Current Motor Company - opinions on this site belong to me; not to my employer
Remember: " 'lectric for local. diesel for distance" - JTH, Amp Bros || "No Gas.

marcopolo
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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car

John, I think you are missing my point, which on reflection maybe a little pedantic. Of course you can obtain rolling stock, and components originating from a major manufacturer. This is not new, after all many small Marques are really re-bodied versions of a major manufacturer,(Jensen, Morgan, Tesla, etc.., in fact most major European makers only produced running/chassis in the early days.The purchaser took his vehicle to a coach builder to be bodied.

But my point was that by doing so you are not really a manufacturer, just a customiser of another product. I am not saying this is wrong, just doesn't equate with your claim that you could build it by yourself. Still as I say, I am probably being pedantic.

I don't really believe that a customiser could, economically sustain manufacture as a customiser in the consumer market. I am aware of several attempts, but they have all failed to achieve significant production. Apart from anything else, the legalities would be difficult. You would have to comply with all the legal liabilities as the manufacturer, even those that were the fault of the supplier of the rolling stock. In Australia there was an attempt to build electric cars from ex fleet Hyundai Getz, basically an eclectic motor with 400+ of batteries in the back seat! Now Australia, and the UK, are far less litigious than the Land of Uncle Sam, but could you imagine the lawyers picnic, when such a vehicle is involved in a major collision?

By Asia, I take it you mean the PRC. No Japanese, Korean,or Malaysian maker would sell you Rolling stock, and that leaves only India. Outside of Tata, I can't see a lot of Customers queueing for a electric 1973 Lada!

The Leaf is deliberately built, like the Prius to be instantly recognisable. This why Prius is a success and Honda a market failure. Nissan and Mitsubishi are both taking an upmarket approach to acquire recognition and acceptance. The cheaper you make an electric car, the less confidence the public will have to purchase one. Start expensive, and you can allays introduce a cheaper model once the market is established. The day of the model T is long gone.

Forget, Cars and SUV's, stick to two wheels or commercial niche applications. in this area most of the marketing prejudice is irrelevant.

marcopolo

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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car

There's a lot of validity to "learning through doing".

I agree: "Probieren geht ueber Studieren!"

But here is another important one to chew on: Form follows function!

.

The power train will be a nightmare to install into anything but a specialized frame, made for just this purpose.

You just cannot bend the sort of cables you need for 80kW power delivery into weird shapes to accommodate the requirements of an existing vehicle. Installing it will cause damage to the insulation if you work it around the many corners through a metal car body. And it would not be safe, and too labour intensive, and too hard to repair after a crash, and would not meet safety requirements, and would short in almost any serious crash.

This information may be used entirely at your own risk.

There is always a way if there is no other way!

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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car

But my point was that by doing so you are not really a manufacturer, just a customiser of another product. I am not saying this is wrong, just doesn't equate with your claim that you could build it by yourself. Still as I say, I am probably being pedantic.

OK - you're absolutely right on that point - I don't think I could start a car factory.

I don't really believe that a customiser could, economically sustain manufacture as a customiser in the consumer market. I am aware of several attempts, but they have all failed to achieve significant production. Apart from anything else, the legalities would be difficult. You would have to comply with all the legal liabilities as the manufacturer, even those that were the fault of the supplier of the rolling stock. In Australia there was an attempt to build electric cars from ex fleet Hyundai Getz, basically an eclectic motor with 400+ of batteries in the back seat! Now Australia, and the UK, are far less litigious than the Land of Uncle Sam, but could you imagine the lawyers picnic, when such a vehicle is involved in a major collision?

Yes, we would become the "manufacturer of record" and it would be our name on the product liability insurance. This means that we would likely have to retest and re-certify a number of aspects. But not all, and starting from something that has passed is a lot easier than starting from a blank sheet of paper. But it's a $10M to $100M proposition not a $100M to $1B proposition.

By Asia, I take it you mean the PRC. No Japanese, Korean,or Malaysian maker would sell you Rolling stock, and that leaves only India. Outside of Tata, I can't see a lot of Customers queueing for a electric 1973 Lada!

I think Korea or Malaysia absolutely would sell rolling stock - in fact I think they both are (Detroit Electric (Korea) and Phoenix Motors (Malaysia)). In fact with the right negotiator I bet one could even persuade the US automakers to provide gliders - they've done it before.

The Leaf is deliberately built, like the Prius to be instantly recognisable. This why Prius is a success and Honda a market failure. Nissan and Mitsubishi are both taking an upmarket approach to acquire recognition and acceptance. The cheaper you make an electric car, the less confidence the public will have to purchase one. Start expensive, and you can allays introduce a cheaper model once the market is established. The day of the model T is long gone.

What about the Honda Insight? Honda got burned by making it too different. Styling of a new vehicle is always a guessing game - another reason to mitigate the risk and go with a proven model. The trick is to make it cheap enough but not too cheap. Get enough of them on the road in the hands of the early adopters and then start selling them based on customer feedback.

Forget, Cars and SUV's, stick to two wheels or commercial niche applications. in this area most of the marketing prejudice is irrelevant.

Oh don't worry - this is merely a nice side discussion. I don't see anyone rushing to give me $10M to start down this path. However, I don't think I buy your final assertion that this doesn't matter in the two wheel world. Take Vectrix as an example...

John H. Founder of Current Motor Company - opinions on this site belong to me; not to my employer
Remember: " 'lectric for local. diesel for distance" - JTH, Amp Bros || "No Gas.

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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car

The power train will be a nightmare to install into anything but a specialized frame, made for just this purpose.

You just cannot bend the sort of cables you need for 80kW power delivery into weird shapes to accommodate the requirements of an existing vehicle. Installing it will cause damage to the insulation if you work it around the many corners through a metal car body. And it would not be safe, and too labour intensive, and too hard to repair after a crash, and would not meet safety requirements, and would short in almost any serious crash.

I disagree to all of your above and I'm not sure either of us have hard data to back up our assertions - so perhaps we'll just agree to differ.

John H. Founder of Current Motor Company - opinions on this site belong to me; not to my employer
Remember: " 'lectric for local. diesel for distance" - JTH, Amp Bros || "No Gas.

reikiman
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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car

I think I've come across an answer to why Nissan has developed an all new vehicle body. It is that they and their partner, Renault, plan to go into electric vehicle production in a big way.

Renault (and Nissan) aiming to be leaders in electric cars

Renaults all-electric show stars

- David Herron, The Long Tail Pipe, davidherron.com, 7gen.com, What is Reiki
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DaveAK
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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car

This is beginning to look like serious stuff. Especially having read the Renault article.

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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car

In Australia there was an attempt to build electric cars from ex fleet Hyundai Getz, basically an eclectic motor with 400+ of batteries in the back seat! Now Australia, and the UK, are far less litigious than the Land of Uncle Sam, but could you imagine the lawyers picnic, when such a vehicle is involved in a major collision?

Can you provide a link to where this was tried?
I do know that www.bev.com.au do many conversions like that, and use 45x 90Ah cells.
The conversions, being after market, aren't treated as a new car.
From a liability perspective its no different to doing an LPG conversion (though im no lawyer)
I suppose we will see when someone does crash one.

Matt

Daily Ride:
2007 Vectrix, modified with 42 x Thundersky 60Ah
Vectrix 60Ah Lithium Tyres Fuel Registration Insurance cycle analyst 2 x TC Charger & MC
conversion

jdh2550_1
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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car

I think I've come across an answer to why Nissan has developed an all new vehicle body. It is that they and their partner, Renault, plan to go into electric vehicle production in a big way.

Renault (and Nissan) aiming to be leaders in electric cars

Renaults all-electric show stars

Ooh, I sure hope so! I also hope they have the fortitude and long term vision to see it through. It's a marathon not a sprint(tm). ;-)

John H. Founder of Current Motor Company - opinions on this site belong to me; not to my employer
Remember: " 'lectric for local. diesel for distance" - JTH, Amp Bros || "No Gas.

marcopolo
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Re: The new Nissan LEAF electric car

do know that www.bev.com.au do many conversions like that, and use 45x 90Ah cells.
The conversions, being after market, aren't treated as a new car.
From a liability perspective its no different to doing an LPG conversion (though im no lawyer)
I suppose we will see when someone does crash one.

Matt, sorry, I can't remember the link, but the company was Blade Electric Cars. The liability of such a conversion is very different than LPG. Essentially, LPG only changes the fuel tank, and is covered by specific legislation. An electric conversion of the nature, encompasses a vast range of questions of liability. The converter would have no immunity from liability, despite having the required engineers certificate, and registration. I would rather be representing the complainant than the converter. Sad, but the old heroic days of road transport are well and truly over!

marcopolo

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