Over the last few years Nissan has made bold strides, or rather great leaps in its search for greener vehicle solutions. The result? The world’s first 100% zero-emissions electric vehicle designed for the mass market, the Nissan LEAF or Leading Environmentally friendly Affordable Family car. And the world has certainly taken notice as the LEAF has already earned such prestigious accolades as the 2011 – 2012 Japanese Car of the Year, 2011 European Car of the Year and 2011 World Car of the Year awards.
But Nissan’s relationship with the electric vehicle didn’t start with the LEAF and goes back as far as 1997 when it introduced its Altra EV at the Los Angeles International Auto Show. Nissan only produced about 200 of the Altra EVs, which sold as fleet vehicles between 1998 and 2002. Following on the Altra was the Nissan Hypermini and then later the Nissan EV-11 prototype electric car based on the Nissan Tiida.
All roads led to the making of the successful LEAF that was officially launched in December 2010 after production started in October of that same year at Nissan’s plant in Oppama, Japan. Initially a target total of 50,000 units were to be completed in 2011 but the earthquake and tsunami in March that year, halted production. To see to the growing demand in the U.S. and European markets, Nissan also plans to start production of the LEAF in the States and the U.K. in the near future.
Though the concept might seem futuristic, the 5-door hatch’s design is nothing out of the ordinary. Most characteristic of the LEAF’s styling is its upwards-slanting LED headlights and aerodynamic V-shaped form.
But it’s what’s under the hood that makes all the difference. The LEAF’s front-mounted electric motor is powered by a lithium-ion battery, which can deliver up to 80kW of power and 280Nm of torque. The battery allows the LEAF to travel distances of up to 160km on one charge while it can reach a top speed of 145km/h. The EV’s advanced powertrain not only provides a new driving experience but also promises smooth and responsive acceleration along with stable handling and a quiet ride.
In just the first year after its launch, the Nissan LEAF sold over 20,000 units in countries like Japan, the US and various European markets, translating into 32 million miles travelled without using fuel. Considering the resulting reduction in carbon footprint, Nissan’s electric vehicle is undoubtedly paving the way for other vehicle manufacturers and the future of the automotive industry as a whole.