Nissan Leaf

For the Nissan Motor Corporation, its initial company jaunt into the electric car arena dates to 1997 after unveiling the Nissan Altra at the Los Angeles Auto Show in December. Over the next 12 years, Nissan would continue to fine-tune its efforts across other electric model platforms such as the Hypermini and the Cube, until eventually settling on their first mass-produced fully electric vehicle in 2010 known as the Leaf.

More on the Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf Origins

Standing for ""Leading, Environmentally friendly, Affordable, Family car,"" the five-door Nissan Leaf hatchback began its gradual unveiling across the globe starting with Japan in late 2010 with the first cars arriving in the U.S. in early 2011. By early 2012, the Leaf should be widely available throughout Europe and Scandinavia with Australian, Brazilian, and Mexican markets following later in the year.

As an all-electric car, the Nissan Leaf has virtually no dependence on petroleum whatsoever, producing no tailpipe pollution or emitting greenhouse gases into the air during operation. The Nissan Leaf received multiple industry awards including European Car Of The Year for 2011, World Car Of The Year in 2011, Kelly Blue Book’s Number One Green Car in 2011, and the Green Car Vision Award in 2010.

About the Nissan Leaf

About the size of a Honda Civic and with a body shape that most closely resembles a Toyota Prius, the Nissan Leaf comes packed with quite a bit of technological prowess under its tiny frame.

The Nissan Leaf derives its powertrain from two sources: an 80-kilowatt front-mounted synchronous electric motor that operates the wheels and an 86 mega joules lithium-ion battery pack for a combined weight of 660 pounds for an overall output of 110 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque. As the heaviest component of any electric-powered vehicle, the Nissan engineers positioned the battery right below the rearseat foot area in order to maintain its optimum center of gravity.

Along with the main battery, there’s a smaller additional 12-volt lead-acid battery that sends power to the Nissan Leaf’s on-board computer systems and accessories such as the stereo system, headlights, and windshield wipers. On U.S. versions of the Leaf, there’s a small solar panel affixed to the rear spoiler that helps keep this auxiliary battery charged.

Dependent on the consumer's driving style, the on-board weight, weather conditions, and accessory use, EPA estimates put the Leaf’s driving distance somewhere between 100 and 125 miles on a fully-charged battery.

Nissan Leaf Features

As the first fully-electric car available in the U.S., the 2012 Nissan Leaf is available to American consumers in SV and SL trim levels.

Standard features and equipment on the base line SV trim include keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, heated seats front and rear, LED headlights, Bluetooth connectivity, trip computer, navigation system, six-speaker stereo with CD player, satellite radio, and iPod/USB. Opting for the SL gives buyers a rear-mounted solar panel, rear-view camera along with a portable charging port that gives 80 percent battery power in 30 minutes when used at public charging stations. At-home charging takes approximately four to eight hours with an average of 90 driving miles per charge.

Dual-powered by an 80-kilowatt electric motor and 24 kWh lithium ion battery pack good for 107 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque, the Nissan comes with a host of safety features: front/curtain side airbags, traction/stability control, and anti-lock brakes.

Nissan Leaf Evolution

The 2011 and 2012 models are practically identical. However, the Leaf does have some interesting pre-cursor electric vehicles that helped pave the way for its inception.

As the first electronic vehicle to use a lithium-ion battery and the first ever electronic car produced by Nissan, the 200 plus models of its Altra station wagon shared power with either a 2.0- or 2.4-liter internal combustion engine. With a range that topped out at approximately 120 miles, the Altra was predominantly used as fleet vehicles for electric companies.

The short-lived two-seater Hypermini (1999 to 2001) could achieve a maximum speed of 62 mph and travel just over 70 miles on a single battery charge. Made primarily of aluminum, the 8.5-foot Hypermini featured automatic electric-powered air-conditioner that allowed the driver to pre-set the interior temperature before use.

In 2008, Nissan unveiled an electric version of the mini multi-purpose Cube at the New York Auto Show, claiming that a commercially-produced version would hit the market by 2010 but never transpired. The Nissan Leaf would take the Cube’s place as the first fully-electric car.

Select a Nissan Leaf Year

2019 Nissan Leaf

Compact, Hatchback

2018 Nissan Leaf

Compact, Hatchback

2017 Nissan Leaf

Compact, Hatchback

2016 Nissan Leaf

Compact, Hatchback

2015 Nissan Leaf

Compact, Hatchback

2014 Nissan Leaf

Compact, Hatchback

2013 Nissan Leaf

Compact, Hatchback

2012 Nissan Leaf

Compact, Hatchback

Introduced in 2011, there's not much new to the Leaf in its second model year. That said, it's a whole new sort of car, so there's still plenty worth mentioning. Rolling on standard 16-inch aluminum wheels shod with Bridgestone Ecopia tires and featuring a standard in-dash navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity, and cruise control, the Leaf comes with plenty of standard equipment in its package that starts at $32,780 before a $7500 federal tax credit and not including the one-time 240-volt charger installation cost of $2200. In California, though, a further rebate brings that figure down an additional $5000. Unfortunately for those looking to save a grand on the lower trim model, Nissan says that most Leafs will come to dealers as SL models.

2011 Nissan Leaf

Compact, Hatchback

Fortunately for American consumers who enjoy the idea of the electric car, the 2011 Nissan Leaf is the first truly affordable fully electric vehicle.