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The Nissan Leaf, Zero Emission, 100 Miles Per Charge

Enter a new breed of automobiles. The Nissan Leaf.

So what’s it all about?

The Nissan Leaf is a full electric car, it’s not a hybrid. As marketed by Nissan, it has ‘No Tailpipe’. The vehicle is powered by a 24kW-h/90 kW lithium ion battery pack that drives an 80 kW/110 hp electric motor. It’s capable of speeds up to 90 mph and offers all the perks of an electric vehicle.

It’s able to be charged in as little as 30 minutes on 440 volts (to 80 percent, although this option is not viable for homeowners since power to the average home is not readily available above 220 volts), 4 hours on 220 volts, and 8 hours on 110 volts.

The Leaf is sceduled to be available in 2010 in the US although it will be in limited quantities and limited areas until its full market release in 2012. Those initial areas are currently being prepped for public charging stations to allow users to charge their vehicles outside of their homes.

So will this catch on? Well we hope so. If it does, even greater improvements are sure to come in the world of clean electric vehicles.

Concerns and hopes? Well, I’m concerned that people will be charging their vehicles during the day when power demands are at their peak. This could put a damaging stress on our electrical grid. However, if people use the vehicles built in features to program their cars to only charge at night during off peak times, we could utilize much of the wasted energy that our nations power plants produce that goes unused.

Hopes? I hope that this development of new electric only vehicles will show people how viable an alternative this actually is. I also hope that this vehicle can be a bridge to new technologies in batteries and motors that can get us charging faster and driving farther than we ever thought possible.

Concerns? A few. I posted a question to Nissans website about what someone would do if they found themselves running low on power, but weren’t near a place they could recharge. Are they stuck? I suppose just carefully planning where you drive to and watching your battery level carefuly could prevent this, but let’s be honest, you can’t plan for everything. So what happens then? I’m not sure, they haven’t answered the question yet. A tow truck with a 440 generator on board? Maybe haha. I’ll be sure to keep everyone updated if/when they do answer that question.

Another concern, a big one. Can we clean up our power plants enough to offset the increased carbon that masses of plugged in electric cars would create? Surely they all wont be plugged in at night during off peak hours, and could off peak excess power an American fleet of electric vehicles anyway?

Let’s look at how electric cars create carbon in the first place. They need to be plugged in, which means our nations electric demand goes up and power plants have to turn out more watts. In the real world, our current grid can definitely handle some electric cars, but if they become mainstream, we would certainly have to beef up our grid by adding plants, wires, and transformers. Would these plants be clean enough to see a substantial overall carbon reduction? Or would they be just as dirty as the gasoline cars that they displaced giving us a breakeven or worse situation?

Hopefully these questions can be answered quickly. If electric cars are going to be a viable alternative, and a green alternative, these are things that we need to know.

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