Ameren Chevy Volt Mitsubishi i-MiEV Nissan Leaf Normal IL

It was sort of strange finally getting to see all the cars I’ve read and written about in one place. Even though a few local and regional dealerships finally started selling these models – I hadn’t ventured out to any of them. My thought was most would already be spoken for and not on the lot. Many customers have pre-orders waiting to be filled by manufacturing. So I figured the chances of me finding what I wanted to see as very slim. During my one day adventure I got the vibe that the local college kids really don’t appreciate these vehicles.

Maybe they are just jaded from seeing them all the time. It could be they are to busy trying to get from one point to the next that the cars don’t even register. Unfortunately it’s most likely many of them have the bass bumping to fast to furious mentality. Which is funny considering a properly designed electric car will smoke that junk off the line.

Less than a year ago I completed the reservation process for a Nissan Leaf ( 5/13/2010 Canceled on 04/13/2011). The original plan had been to keep our gas powered car for long distance trips. Using the Leaf as the daily driver and for short regional drives. Later on after taking a look into our finances – it looked close to impossible to add a new car to the budget.

One major technical factor had me reconsidering a Nissan Leaf purchase. It was something that I felt was important but had decided I might be putting to much weight behind it’s relevance. Battery management is a highly debated topic. Especially when the power source is lithium ion batteries. I’ve always felt that liquid cooling – similar to how Tesla does things – should be a key component to any lithium ion electric car. Others would state this depends on what type of battery chemistry is used.

The 2012 Nissan Leaf will come standard with winter warming capability for the battery pack. This had been an optional extra for the 2011 model year. Not a real good way to start things off with customers for the release of this new vehicle. Customers who didn’t get the option or paid for it should be compensated. Those who paid should get refunds – those who didn’t should be able to get the system retrofitted. While heating in cold climates is very important – this doesn’t address the need to have the batteries cooled in warmer climates and hotter times of year. One very large negative that Nissan doesn’t seem to worried about.

With worries in regards to financing and adding a new bill to the budget it was time to reconsider our Leaf reservation. About that time is when a lot of Ford Focus EV hype started in. When I heard this car would have a thermal management system for the battery pack I decided to cancel our Nissan Leaf reservation. Only later did I start to hear some unkind words in forums in regards to the Focus EV.

The Ford Focus EV does come in at a higher price point than the Nissan Leaf. The Focus EV price is closer to that of a Chevy Volt – when equipt with a few standard basics that price roughly comes in about $5,000 more on the sticker. When comparing miles per charge, features – except battery management – the Focus & Leaf are very similar. Close in vehicle size and both are reported to get 100 miles per charge average. The Leaf wins for top speed at 93 mph versus the Focus 84.

At this point our Nissan Leaf reservation has long been cancelled. I didn’t feel it was fair to tie up the reservation system when a real buyer might miss out on making a purchase. My only real hesitation with the Leaf is lack of battery management cooling. I’ve seen how battery operated NiCad ( nickel–cadmium battery ) cordless tools react in different types of weather. I don’t want that same experience in a car.

In the video you see an Ameren branded Chevy Volt, two Mitsubishi i-MiEV ( branded i or i electric car here in the United States ) and a Nissan Leaf parked outside of the Marriott Hotel & next door to the Normal Theater in Normal IL.

We could debate for a long time on which vehicle is the best. In some ways they all have their strong points. Honestly I’m just happy we are at point where enough electric car versions are being produced to even have a discussion on which is better. In the end my hope is that consumers become less scared of them – avoid the electric car enthusiast discussions that can lead to confusion and just buy one. No matter which one you decide on – the best choice is to reduce gasoline usage or eliminate it all together. Consumers need to speak with their dollars and when possible purchase one of the many electric options available now.

It sickens me daily that I don’t have the cash to go out and make a electric car purchase. If money was flowing like gold I’d put a reservation on a Tesla Model S Signature Series today. Granted I’d have a year or longer wait to get it – do to all the current production cars being spoken for with owners. It’s frustrating to be someone wanting to lead by example but not having the money to make the purchase. This becomes even more aggravating when most days I’m around closed minded clueless people who think drill baby drill is the answer.

Quick updated – Miles Nissan was contacted today – a very good experience was reported back to me. They do have a Leaf on their lot available for a test drive. It had been reported in our local paper that the Springfield Nissan dealer was getting a few Leaf’s. But do to history my business always heads to Decatur first. Honestly if that didn’t work out – I’d head to the contact I made at the EV Town event. I’ll cover more on the purchase debate in another article at some point.

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