Two tents behind the cordon in Luzhniki and three cars, around which a small group of journalists gathered – this is how quietly and imperceptibly the first driving presentation of the serial electric car Nissan Leaf took place in our country.
Meanwhile, the world community has already appreciated the importance of the very fact of the appearance of this electric car: Leaf has won two honorary titles: “European Car 2011” and “World Car 2011”. We managed to make a circle in an electric car along the park alleys of the sports complex.
The Leaf is a five-door hatchback built on a completely original platform. The premiere of the electric car took place in August 2009, and the serial production of the model began in October 2010. The power plant is a three-phase 80-kilowatt (approximately 109 horsepower) synchronous electric motor with a maximum torque of 280 Nm, mounted with a voltage converter and gearbox on the front axle, as well as a 360-volt lithium-ion battery, which consists of 48 blocks and located under the bottom of the vehicle.
The battery capacity is 24 kilowatts per hour, and the capacity is 90 kilowatts.
The controls in the Leaf are no different from any subcompact with automatic transmission: a steering wheel, two pedals and a transmission selector. True, here he only sets the direction of movement, and does not choose gears, and is completely devoid of a mechanical connection with the power plant.
The devices are similar to those used on classic cars, only on the right, instead of the fuel level indicator in the tank, there is a scale with a reserve battery charge, as well as an indicator of the distance that can be walked until the next recharge. On the left is the battery temperature gauge, and the tachometer was replaced by a scale showing what percentage of the power plant’s power is being used at one time or another..
The first feeling behind the wheel is absolute silence and absence of vibrations in the cabin. The engine is not heard, because an electric car is alien to such a thing as idle. To move the gas pedal – sorry, the accelerator – the electric motor reacts without delay. The car quickly starts from a place and easily picks up a cruising speed of 110 kilometers per hour.
According to the manufacturer, the Leaf’s power-to-weight ratio is no worse than that of a car with a 2.5-liter V6 petrol engine.!
The length of the electric car is 4445 millimeters, the width is 1770 millimeters, the height is 1550 millimeters, and the wheelbase is 2700 millimeters. Leaf can reach a top speed of 140 kilometers per hour.
But most importantly, there are no jerks that occur when shifting gears, and there are no delays when adding traction. This is because there is no transmission as such here either – an electric motor with an inverter is directly connected to a gearbox. Acceleration rolls instantly, the electric car really “follows” the movement of the right pedal.
But you need to get used to the brakes – the Leaf pedal is tight and short-travel, and when the driver presses it slightly, the power plant of the electric car first goes into recuperation mode (the electric motor works as a generator, recharging the batteries) and only then activates the brakes.
Without recharging, the car can travel up to 175 kilometers, according to the European driving cycle, or 200 kilometers, according to the Japanese measurement method. But these figures are rather arbitrary, because the power reserve depends on weather conditions, terrain, use of an air conditioner, battery wear and driving style. In any case, charging will be enough, on average, for one day – according to statistics, 80 percent of European motorists drive no more than 100 kilometers per day..
In terms of handling, the Leaf is not much different from any Nissan Note, except a little better. "rushes" and responds faster to driver input. The secret lies in the fact that the heaviest element in the “Leaf” is a flat battery (weighing about 300 kilograms), located under the floor within the wheelbase of the electric vehicle, which improves weight distribution. Whereas in a traditional hatchback, the engine and gearbox are located at the front of the car..
With a 400-volt charger already available at dedicated terminals in Europe, the Nissan Leaf battery can be charged to 80 percent in just 30 minutes. Charging from a household 220-volt outlet will take eight hours. In order for the lithium-ion battery to last longer, the manufacturer recommends charging the Leaf from a regular power outlet. To recharge the car at home, you need a special cable with an adapter.
The battery charging port has two outlets, one for normal charging and the other for fast charging. Both are located under the flap at the front of the vehicle..
The Nissan Leaf is equipped with solar panels at the rear of the roof, an advanced on-board computer and a mobile phone interface. In addition, the car received special energy-efficient headlights and Bridgestone Ecopia EP150 tires with a low rolling resistance coefficient..
The electric car has well-thought-out aerodynamics: the Leaf boasts a flat underbody and a streamlined front end, which reduces air resistance and noise in the cabin.
The Nissan Leaf also has a special energy-saving ECO mode that "cuts" engine power and puts the air conditioner in a “gentle” mode of operation.
But still, as they say in the company itself, despite all the advantages of an electric car, the Leaf is still difficult to perceive as a practical vehicle, for example, for a family. The cost of this car in the United States is 33 thousand dollars, and for Europeans it will cost 31 thousand euros. Not cheap.
Plus, there are difficulties with recharging the car on long journeys. Therefore, customers who buy electric vehicles now are, first of all, corporations with large fleets, or companies that encourage innovative technologies and pay increased attention to environmental issues and cost reduction..
The multimedia device on the center console includes a whole NISSAN CARWINGS subsystem – a telematics complex that allows the owner to remotely exchange information with the car via the Internet via a special SIM card. Registration in the system is tied to the VIN number of the car, so even if the owner changes, the vehicle profile is saved. Through this system, you can set and monitor battery charging parameters, the status of the electric vehicle and energy consumption graphs.
Owners will also be able to remotely turn on the heating / air conditioning system while charging, so that a comfortable microclimate is established in the cabin by the time the ride begins. You can program a timer to charge the battery at night when electricity costs are lower in many countries than during the day. In addition to the above, CARWINGS exchanges data with the navigation system, showing a map of the location of charging stations, calculates the optimal route to the end point (with visiting recharging terminals if necessary) or simply shows on the map the boundaries of the area that an electric car can drive on with the remaining battery charge..
According to representatives "Nissan", for six years of operation of the Leaf with a monthly mileage of a thousand kilometers, its owners will be able to save more than five thousand euros compared to a conventional car of the class "C" with a traditional internal combustion engine. Electricity prices, of course, differ from country to country, but analysis shows that they are, as a rule, still, on average, five times lower than fuel prices..
Since the Nissan Leaf is almost silent at low speed, it is equipped with an acoustic pedestrian warning system when an electric vehicle is approaching. If the car is moving at a speed of up to 30 kilometers per hour, the system beeps using a speaker built into the front of the car. When the speed exceeds 30 kilometers per hour, pedestrians will already hear the noise of a moving vehicle (tire hum, for example), therefore "warning" the sound is automatically muted.
In addition, in Europe, Leaf owners receive tax breaks and other "amenity" – for example, cash subsidies for purchases, subscriptions for free electricity charging throughout the year, the ability to drive on
lanes reserved for public transport, free entry and the ability to park in central areas of large metropolitan areas that are closed to ordinary cars. Another attractive side of the “Nissan” electric car is the lack of the need for frequent maintenance, since the Leaf, in fact, is devoid of the usual “consumables” like oil and fuel filters.
Almost 100 percent of the materials that make up a Nissan electric vehicle are recyclable. In addition, in Japan, Nissan formed a joint venture with Sumitomo Corporation to "reuse, sale, manufacture and recycling" batteries for electric vehicles.
What plans do you have for the future? Now the company is trying with all its might to explain to buyers that the purchase of an electric car does not put an end to their freedom of movement. After all, it is this "phobia" is the main obstacle in the minds of Europeans on the path to electric cars.
Wise Japanese people also rely on young people who are greedy for modern gadgets. Moreover, “brain processing” is carried out from childhood: programs for acquaintance of schoolchildren and students with the Leaf electric car have already been prepared in some countries. In addition, the company in every possible way supports seminars on environmental issues and energy saving, because they allow you to collect and analyze information, which can then be used for more efficient development of infrastructure for electric vehicles..
At the moment, about 7.5 thousand Leaf electric vehicles have been sold around the world. Plus, the company has signed about 90 agreements on cooperation in the promotion of electric vehicles with the governments of various countries, the authorities of some cities and with large companies. The electric car is manufactured at Nissan’s Japanese plant in Oppama, and will soon be deployed in North America and the UK. At the US plant, assembly of these machines is expected to begin in late 2012, and at the UK plant in early 2013. The Leaf batteries are manufactured by a joint venture between Nissan and Nec in Japan.
The plant produces four-layer battery packs, which are then sent to Oppama, where they are mounted on an electric vehicle in the line responsible for installing gas tanks on vehicles with traditional power plants. Each Nissan Leaf comes with 48 of these blocks. In addition to the Leaf model, Oppama also builds Juke and Cube cars..
Now Nissan are thinking about simplifying the process of replacing used batteries, expanding the capabilities of the built-in solar battery for servicing the on-board electrical network, increasing the battery capacity and equipping the Leaf with a more efficient heating system for the passenger compartment, in particular for the seats and steering wheel..
But how real the operation of Leaf is in our country is still a big question. Tests of this electric car in Russia have not yet been carried out. As one of the Nissan technicians said, the company’s employees really hope to test the car in the Russian frost conditions next winter.
Before the launch of the series, the car, of course, passed tests in Scandinavia, however, specific figures, for example, how quickly the battery loses its charge at negative temperatures, the “Nissan” do not report. For our part, we note that so far Leaf is sold only in markets with a fairly warm climate..
In the Euro NCAP crash tests, the Nissan Leaf electric car earned a maximum rating of five stars. The experts noted that the tests were carried out with the batteries included, which are located under the rear seats of the car. During the collision, no problems with the batteries – a short circuit or the threat of electric shock to passengers – were identified.
The experts of the organization, however, noted that the hard plastic of the center console and steering column can pose a danger to the knees and hips of passengers. In addition, experts assessed the protection of the neck from whiplash injuries in a rear-end collision as "minimum effective".
In any case, there is no talk of a quick sale of the Leafs in our country. To begin with, the Japanese want to acquaint Russians with their achievements in the field of electric cars production and will try to interest the Russian authorities and large investors in their project. If the business elite and officials want to contribute to the development of the appropriate infrastructure – they will be engaged in the construction of terminals and charging stations for electric vehicles, as well as organize state support for buyers of such equipment, as is customary in European countries, then Leaf may well appear on Russian roads.
After all, sooner or later, you will still have to think about it – progress, fortunately, is inexorable.