2011 Nissan Leaf SL CW DEMO Miles Nissan Decatur Illinois

A few weeks back I finally got to take a ride in a Nissan Leaf ( the first electric car I ever got to ride in was a Tesla Roadster ). After test driving several gasoline powered cars at Miles Nissan in Decatur Illinois – we were given a thumbs up to take the Leaf out for a spin. Unfortunately do to time constraints the test drive had to be quick.

Decatur streets are a great place to test out the smoothness of a vehicles ride. Since the roads aren’t in the best condition you can get a good feel for how a car handles rough pavement. Out of all the cars I rode in that day I feel the Leaf had the smoothest ride. I’d venture a guess this might be do to the battery pack providing better stability.

Out of the 3 cars test driven the Leaf definitely has the best pick up to speed. An electric car always has full power & torque – so when you press the accelerator you move quickly. Several times I had to tell my girlfriend to slow down because it’s easy to get to 50 MPH fast – even when driving in town. This always on torque also helps this car ( and other electric cars ) perform well in snow. Although battery performance can decline in cold weather – with a properly designed management system this effect should be reduced. Many people seem to forget that “traditional” gas powered vehicles performance is also effected by weather conditions. For the 2012 Leaf a cold weather management system comes standard – this was previously an optional upgrade for the 2011 model year. The Quick Charge Port is now a standard feature – for 2011 it was an optional upgrade.

Do to a much simpler design there is less maintenance with an electric car. No oil changes or replacing worn parts – because there are fewer components to break down or wear out. You can “refill” the Leaf “tank” for pennies on the dollar in most regions – compared to a lot of large dollar bills for a gasoline powered car. The power for the Nissan Leaf comes from American sources. American power plants are ran by mostly American companies. Electric cars keep American jobs in the USA. Compared to gasoline which is normally produced by large multi national corporations which in many cases could care less about American jobs.

Some argue that powering an electric car is just as dirty as running a gasoline powered vehicle. While it can be argued that powering an electric car with coal is dirty. There are a few things to keep in mind. That coal while dirty comes from American sources – providing American jobs. It’s easier to contain pollution from a large power plant than millions of single cars. Better pollution controls are in place for power producers than a vehicle tailpipe. There are a growing number of regions in the United States that have become enlightened and are now producing power using environmentally friendly methods.

Many electric car haters will always find a reason to be critical of these vehicles. Most of their arguments can be made for gasoline powered cars. Performance reduces depending on time of year, weather conditions, air condition being used, the type of terrain – the list goes on. Everything that these people state makes electric cars worthless are things that effect the gas powered vehicles most people drive today.

Everyone always jumps on the range argument. No matter how many times it’s shown that the majority of people DO NOT travel 100 miles a day. Even when presented with an electric vehicle that can travel 200 to 300 miles per charge these same people find a reason to argue that this isn’t good enough. Several electric cars currently or in the near future will have a 150 to 300 mile range. These will be production vehicles coming out later this year or in 2013.

While an electric car might not meet everyone’s needs right now. It will meet the majority of daily miles traveled for a large portion of consumers. For those needing a large vehicle or extended range – plug-in hybrids exist as an alternative. There are also alternative fuels that are cleaner to produce and produce less emissions from the tail pipe. Unfortunately most people in the United States are unaware of these options. Instead of complaining about gas prices and “supposed” wars waged in the name of oil – what people should be demanding is alternative fuel production.

There are many cleaner fuels that can run in current diesel engines. Biodiesel – which can be made from waste products. Hempoline is another example of a fuel that can be made from the hemp plant. This would give US farmers another cash crop if they would be allowed to grow it. Hemp can produce fuel, clothes, shoes, food products and be used to manufacture many other items. The point is – if we embrace change and a new way of thinking we don’t have to be chained to gasoline.

While the Nissan Leaf pictured above was manufactured in Japan using all Japanese parts. In the near future Leafs’ will be built in Smyrna, Tennessee starting December 2012. That means Nissan provided American construction jobs to refurbish this facility. It also means the Nissan Leaf will be built in America – providing American jobs.

“This US plant will be modified with a US$1.4 billion loan granted by the US Department of Energy to allow the manufacturing plant to produce the Nissan Leaf and its advanced batteries. The retooled plant is expected to create 1,300 jobs.”

The Nissan Leaf above is not the first one I’ve been around. It is the first one I’ve ever taken a ride in. Unfortunately do to finances a Leaf is not what we ended up purchasing. A few days after our test drives – we purchased a Nissan Sentra. While this could be considered an upgrade from our old car. It’s only a slight upgrade in gas mileage and definitely not what I’d prefer was parked in our garage. No matter how many of you feel more drilling will give you relief at the pump. The facts just don’t support that. Plenty of oil is being produced on a daily basis. Most of it being sold to developing Asian countries where demand and prices are high. Gasoline is a commodity that will always be sold where it will produce the most profit. Which isn’t here in the United States.

A strong Nation uses it’s resources wisely. America’s lack of embracing new technology and refusal to change is exactly what is allowing other countries to surpass us in many ways.

Once again I’d like to say thanks to Miles Nissan Manager Maurice Brown for being so accommodating during our visit.

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