Geeking Out With the Nissan Leaf


The Nissan Leaf is a geek’s car.

Nissan only produced 20,000 Leafs to sell in the U.S. this year and they’re all sold. However, my family was lucky enough to catch the Nissan Leaf tour when it came to town recently and we got to test drive one!

The Leaf is a 100% electric-powered family car using an 80 kW AC synchronous motor and 48 Lithium ion batteries as its engine. If having its own iPhone app isn’t geeky enough, it also has a digital touch screen dash display with tons of control options.  There’s no key to start the Leaf.  Instead, you push a big button with the international power symbol emblazoned on it. Getting the car moving is done through push buttons, too.  My 8 year old now believes he can drive the Leaf because he knows which buttons to push to get the thing moving!

To be honest, I didn’t expect much from a first-generation all-electric car.  I imagined that it would be pretty dull inside and out, stripped-down to conserve power, and too slow and small to seriously handle highway speeds and family needs.

I was wrong.

For starters, as claimed, the Leaf’s low center of gravity provides some seriously fun driving.  In our short test drive, the Leaf accelerated much quicker than our v6 gasoline engine car, and the Leaf was much quieter, too.

Under the hood of the Nissan LeafIMG_1325Nissan Leaf Dashboard - how far can you go on a charge?

Refueling station for electric carsChecking out the Nissan LeafBattery packs for Nissan Leaf
The Leaf can comfortably seat a family of four, but there is actually room for a third person in the back seat as long as that person isn’t too tall.  The back hatch compartment is roomy enough for the week’s groceries or the kids’ soccer gear.  The car’s interior is basic, but not too cheap-looking, and the digital dashboard display looks very high-tech. The Leaf even offers an optional photovoltaic solar panel rear spoiler (although I’m not sure how much charging it can do since it isn’t very large).

There are lots of other cool facts about the Leaf, too.  Here are some of the things we learned about it.

  • It gets 100 miles to a charge in average driving conditions.
  • Companies Like Cracker Barrel, Costco, and Walmart are planning to add charging stations to their locations.
  • The seats and dash are made from recycled plastic.
  • It has zero exhaust emissions because it is 100% electric.
  • Part of the car’s engine consists of 600 pounds of battery  packs mounted  below the floor.   The Lithium ion batteries are completely recyclable when their useful life ends– and they’re the safest batteries a car can have.
  • There’s not a recognizable engine under the Leaf’s hood, but Nissan built a “shell” to resemble an engine so the engine compartment doesn’t look so alien to consumers.
  • The Leaf  has amazing acceleration.
  • When you apply the brakes or coast, the electric motor converts some of the energy to battery energy, which charges your battery.
  • You can monitor and manage your Leaf’s charge from an iPhone or other wireless device through an app.  Also, there’s a USB adapter on the car stereo for your iPhone.
  • The car will call you at midnight if you forget to charge it.
  • The built-in GPS dash display automatically shows you how far you can go on your charge and all of the charging stations located nearby.
  • The Leaf comes equipped with all weather tires so you can drive safely in rain and snow.
  • The Leaf is quieter than a ceiling fan, but for safety reasons, the car will make a simulated motor noise when it slows below a certain speed.
  • There are federal tax credits of up to $2,000 available if you purchase your own charging station unit.
  • The charging unit looks like a small gas pump and even the nozzle looks like a slimmed-down version of a gas pump nozzle.

To find out when the tour is heading to your area, visit the Nissan Leaf website. We had a great time checking out this ultra-geeky car.  Take your children, too, because Nissan Engineers can answer their techie questions making the experience decidedly educational.  Also, kids will enjoy climbing around inside the demo car and playing with the cool dashboard display. Most importantly, the Leaf is serious about moving the world away from fossil fuels. Quieter cities and a cleaner environment are in our futures.

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