Flash Drive: 2018 Nissan Leaf

Flash Drive: 2018 Nissan Leaf

2nd Generation Offers Upgrades and Longer Driving Range

As the world’s best-selling electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf is recognized as a leader in battery electric vehicles. But, as things go in life, being the leader means the competition is constantly nipping at your heals. Because, heck, who wants to be #2?

After seven years on the market, the first-generation Leaf has been replaced by the all-new 2018 Nissan Leaf. Revised styling, charging speed and a longer driving distance are only a few of the key changes to the second-generation Leaf. With the announcement that the 2019 Nissan Leaf will go even further, Nissan has jumped feet first into the tiered offering of electric vehicles.

Turning a New Leaf

Nissan brought journalists to the Napa Valley during the first week of December. A few hours of technical briefings were followed by drives through the vineyards. The presentations revealed the 2018 Nissan Leaf has many improvements, including:

2018 Nissan Leaf

Best seller raises the bar

  • The new battery has the same physical size as the 2017 model, but packs more punch through scientific advances in battery density and chemistry
  • A battery with 40kWh in the same space that previously had 30 kWh
  • A bump in the AC motor from 80 kW to 110 kW
  • New driving range of 150 miles

So, what does this all mean? The 110-kW electric motor puts out 147 horsepower, a 37-percent increase compared to its predecessor. Peak torque sees a 26-percent increase to 236 pounds-feet, delivered across a wider band, making for near-exciting launches and better acceleration when at cruising speeds. But for most drivers, the increase from a 112- to 150-mile driving range is what will get their attention.

The Chevrolet Bolt (currently available in all states) and the Tesla Model 3 (barely available in any states) both have a 200+ mile driving range. But that is it, as all other electric vehicles get between 100 and 125 miles on a charge (or less in some cases). Nissan told us that the 2018 Leaf with a 150-mile range is a “white space,” reassuring consumers that 150 miles is what they need for the vast majority of their driving needs. Clean Fleet Report agrees that this is well within 90-percent of what all people need for their driving pattern and lifestyle. But, everyone hears the sexy 200+ numbers from the Bolt and Model 3 and think that anything else is lacking. Thus, Nissan’s challenge is convincing these potential buyers that 150 miles is just fine.

Technology Abounds

As the auto industry creeps closer and closer to autonomous vehicles, the first steps are the development of advanced driver-assist features. Long ago this began with cruise control, but the advances in the past few years have been astounding. Nissan has had several driver-assist features on its cars for the past few years, but the 2018 Nissan Leaf comes with two new technologies: ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. Nissan calls this its Intelligent Mobility, which is comprised of driving, power and integration elements.

2018 Nissan Leaf

The new Leaf gets a significant technology upgrade

The first of the new systems is ProPilot Assist, which Nissan repeatedly stressed is NOT autopilot. This system is hands-on and, when engaged, aids the driver keeping the Leaf entered between lane lines. If lane lines are faded or covered in mud or snow, the system automatically disengages.

It works very well, even when we did what Nissan said NOT to do, which was driving with hands off the wheel. We did this not to be disobedient, but to test the progressive warning lights and sounds that became more frequent and louder the longer our hands were off the wheel. The final test of the ProPilot Assist is that it will bring the Leaf to a complete stop if all the warnings are ignored. We were warned to be very careful with this final stage (we were), which truly demonstrated the benefits of this safety technology. ProPilot Assist is designed to help a sleepy or physically incapacitated driver safely bring the Leaf to a stop. Experiencing our Leaf go from 70 mph to 30 mph demonstrated how a person’s life could be saved.

The e-Pedal feature offers one pedal driving, which Nissan says reduces “the need to switch between accelerator and brake pedals.” This is accomplished by first setting the system with the center console-mounted button. Then, acceleration, deceleration, stopping and even holding at a stop are all controlled by the pressure applied to the accelerator pedal. The ‘stop’ feature, even up to a 30-percent grade, is an industry first.

Leaf On the Road

When Clean Fleet Report reviewed the previous generation Leaf we found the ride was smooth and quiet, with good handling for a car not designed to be sporty. For 2018, Nissan has improved the drivability by placing the “heavy components, including the battery…in the center of the body.” This then improves “directional stability, enabling smoother cornering.” We agree.

2018 Nissan Leaf

The new Leaf leads with style–that doesn’t divide

What really made the drive interesting was using the e-Pedal, where we experienced the one pedal driving Nissan touted. One of the things about new driver assist technologies is that a trust level needs to be established real, real fast. We had no problem adapting to–and trusting-this unique system.

Our test drive began on the very scenic Silverado Trail, the 29-mile two lane road on the Eastern side of the Napa Valley that runs from Napa to Calistoga. Known for weekend bumper-to-bumper traffic of wine tasters, we were fortunate to hit it during the week when slow-poke winery visitors did not impede our testing the curves and twisties.

What we found was the 2018 Nissan Leaf’s suspension has been improved, to the point where we actually can say the car was fun to drive. It was easy to point the Leaf where you wanted it to go–and it stuck. The electric power steering has been recalibrated for improved road feel and feedback. Nissan says the urethane bump stops for the rear suspension have been replaced by rubber stops, which reduce shocks and bumpiness on uneven surfaces. It must have worked because we felt none of those on our drive.

Out on Highway 101 our drive took us through the redwoods, where the ride was smooth and confident. Confident, because this is where we tested the ProPilot Assist. It did what we were told it would do: keep us centered between the white painted lines.

In summary, driving new technology through vineyards and majestic redwoods was a perfect way for us to get a feel for the 2018 Leaf. Your dealer test drive may not be as bucolic and scenic, but we are confident you can replicate our experience.

New Leaf – New Design

2018 Nissan Leaf

The new Leaf features a more inviting design

The first-generation Leaf was known for its very unique design, which included those interesting headlights that were oh-so-aerodynamic, but also not pleasing to many people. With the all-new 2018 Nissan Leaf, those headlights are a thing of the past.

The 2018 Leaf has a modern design that, while still recognizable as a Leaf, does not scream: “I am different!” It softly says: “Hey, check me out.” The new design is softer and sleeker, especially of note is the “floating roofline” that gently sweeps back to the rear hatch.

The interior has been completely reworked as well. The gauges are easier to understand than the previous model, with everything well within the driver’s outstretched arm. The seats were supportive, leg and headroom were ample. We would be remiss if we did not thank Nissan for the radio volume and channel knobs. There’s nothing worse than when a car company tries to get too modern by thinking radio controls should be like your smartphone–all swipe and pinch.

Model Line-up

The 2018 Nissan Leaf will come in three models. The MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) for the three, not including the $885 destination and handling fee are:

2018 Nissan Leaf

The Leaf can charge slow, faster and really fast

Leaf S          $29,990

Leaf SV        $32,490

Leaf SL        $36,200

Depending where you live and your taxable income, you could potentially reduce your final cost by as much as $10,000 through federal and state programs. It is recommended contacting your CPA before considering a Leaf purchase so you are completely clear on the tax credits and rebates. Not relying on the dealer to provide this information will serve them and you best.

For those in California, the Leaf automatically qualifies for the coveted HOV sticker which allows solo driving in the Carpool lane. If you haven’t heard the stories, people buy the Leaf just for this benefit.

Observations: 2018 Nissan Leaf

Announcements from car manufacturers are eagerly awaited, especially the launch of a “next generation” model. But when the new version is replacing a category leader our attention is piqued, as there is so much that can go wrong by tinkering with a sales success. Nissan need not worry, as the all-new 2018 Nissan Leaf hits multiple marks with its design evolution and technology advancements.

2018 Nissan Leaf

Nissan’s also rolling out a program to help with charging

Clean Fleet Report will have the opportunity in the coming months to drive the 2018 Leaf for a week or more. At that point, we will do a deeper dive on the ProPilot and e-Pedal technologies and will review the regenerative braking, charging and the very cool “Leaf To Home” charging system. The telematics and infotainment systems have been upgraded, such as your being able to give commands to Amazon’s Alexa that control certain settings on the Leaf. All very futuristic stuff that is becoming available right now.

Until then, you can set an appointment with your local Nissan dealer to take a test drive with one of their factory-trained EV specialists. We think you will be pleased with what you find.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Tech: Engine Variable Compression Gamechanger

Tech: Engine Variable Compression Gamechanger

Nissan Introduces Variable Compression Ratio Engine in 2019 Infiniti QX50

Too often at auto shows the external hardware of the car gets all the attention, when we know its what’s under the hood that counts. At the recent Los Angeles Auto Show, Nissan introduced a break-through engine technology that shows great potential to improve the efficiency and power of current engines—variable compression.

2019 INFINITI QX50

Under the hood of the new QX50 is the world’s first variable compression ratio engine

This is not some science experiment. The engine will debut in the 2019 Infiniti QX50, which will arrive in 2018. To illustrate the dramatic change possible with this technology:

  • It will arrive in a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that will replace a 3.7-liter V-6
  • The new engine will have a 27 percent fuel economy boost compared to the old one.
  • The new engine will deliver 268 horsepower and 288 pounds-feet of torque, resulting in 0-60 acceleration one seconds faster than competitors.
  • Early reports from press drives of early pilot-builds of the QX50 with the new engine said it was “impressive” in both power and refinement—and it was transparent to the drive.

What It Does

Nissan said it has been working on variable compression technology for 20 years, piling up more than 300 patented technologies along the way. Formula 1 racers even played a role in the engine development.

Until this engine, all pistons traveled the same distance up and down in their cylinders, whatever speed and load the vehicle they were tasked with motivating had. The compression ratio of an engine is determined by the amount of space (smaller spaces lead to higher compression) left at the top of a piston’s travel. That is the way it’s been forever.

The pistons in the VC-Turbo (Nissan’s name for the QX50 engine) are connected to rods that are attached to one end of an elliptic device Nissan calls a multi-link, which replaces the normal connecting rod connection on the crankshaft. An electrically controlled actuator twists a shaft, which causes the multi-link to tilt up or down slightly. Depending on the tilt angle, the compression ratio goes up or down.

The compression ratio varies from 8:1 to 14:1. The engine’s turbocharger kicks in to boost power with the lower ratio, while the higher compression ratio approaches that of a diesel engine and the efficiency it brings.

2019 INFINITI QX50

This new engine technology promises to extend the life of the ICE

As with many recent engine advances, Nissan chief powertrain engineer, Shinichi Kiga, told reporters that modern engine control technologies were the key to getting this engine into production. In addition to the turbocharger, it features both port and direct fuel injection, variable valve timing and a cooling system with four circuits. The computer brain runs the show and tells the actuator when to spin.

The Bottom Line

Nissan said the engine is more expensive than conventional ones, but only about 10 percent more, so the increased fuel economy should bring payback relatively quickly. The engine, mated to a continuously variable transmission, will be the only one offered in the new QX50. It will require premium fuel.

2019 Infiniti QX50

The package the new technology will come in is a good fit

The bigger question is where the technology might end up next as Nissan seeks to amortize the development cost by bumping up production. The company touts it as a lower cost route to diesel power and fuel efficiency, which might point the engine toward use in its larger vehicles.

Assuming the durability of the system is solid, which 20 years of development should assure, logically the engines may start showing up in larger, heavier vehicles. With those, a six mpg fuel economy improvement is quite an achievement, and its low cost creates an even steeper hurdle for electric drive to overcome.

To echo Mark Twain’s remarks, recent pronouncements of the death of the internal combustion engine may have been premature.

 

News: 2018 Nissan Leaf Electric Car Production Starts in US

News: 2018 Nissan Leaf Electric Car Production Starts in US

Second Generation Leaf EV Cranks Up in TN Plant

After launching the all-new battery-electric Nissan Leaf in September and starting production in Japan and the UK, the Japanese automaker began U.S. production of the new vehicle yesterday at its Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant in Smyrna, Tenn. The automaker said the car will be available at dealerships nationwide starting next month.

2018 Nissan LEAF

The all-new Leaf is already selling well elsewhere in the world

The 2018 Leaf will be offered in S, SV and SL trim levels, with the base Leaf S starting at $29,901 plus destination fees before any incentives. Compared to the outgoing model, the new Leaf has a 40 percent longer driving range (at 150 miles) with more power and features, yet its price starts $690 lower.

Standard on all models is the Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility features including: Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) and e-Pedal technology, allowing drivers to accelerate and stop using a single pedal.  Available is the automaker’s ProPILOT Assist technology, which helps drivers navigate stop-and-go traffic by assisting control of acceleration, braking and steering during single-lane highway driving.

Nissan has been manufacturing the Leaf at the company’s Smyrna site, the largest auto assembly plant in North America, since 2013, with more than 114,550 vehicles sold in the United States since 2011.

“We’re committed to vehicle electrification and manufacturing in the United States. With the Leaf’s low starting price and latest suite of Nissan Intelligent Mobility features, we’re excited to ramp up production and bring the Leaf to market next month,” said Jeff Younginer, vice president of manufacturing at Nissan’s Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant.

Already Off to a Good Start

Sales of the new Leaf EV are already off to a good start. According to Nissan at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show at the end of October, Nissan Senior Vice President Asako Hoshino told reporters that sales have exceeded expectations, and that it has received more than 9,000 orders in less than two months of availability. Europe has made up 3,500 of those global sales, according to Automotive News Europe. The Nissan Leaf began sales in Norway in early September, followed by Germany, Austria, France and Holland at the beginning of October. EV-friendly Norway has seen more than 2,000 sales of the 2018 Leaf.

2018 Nissan LEAF

The first 2018 Leaf rolls off the line in Smyrna

Those wanting a Leaf with more than a 150-mile driving range will have to wait. A second variant with a 60-kW battery pack, called “e-Plus,” arrives in 2019 with an expected driving range of 225 miles.

The question is, will the 2018 Leaf with its longer driving range, new looks and new features be enough to sway buyers away from the Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3?

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Top 10 Best Value Electric Cars To Buy Now

Top 10 Best Value Electric Cars To Buy Now

Choice & Deals Are Out There

With more electric cars entering the market, there is greater choice available for the consumer. As technology develops, and newer, better options become available, there is now real value to be had in owning an electric car.

This list considers the Top 10 Best Value battery electric cars that are on the market right now–based on the publicly announced lease prices, along with the range you get at the price. All the lease prices listed here are for 36-months, and based on the manufacturer’s price. They do not include down payments, and these costs may vary between different dealerships and locations. Deals can be had, as anyone who’s shopped EVs knows.

The range listed for each car is also based on the EPA guidelines, though these will vary in the real world depending on speed, weather and terrain (amongst other factors). While these figures are only guidelines, therefore, they offer a good indication of what you’re getting for your money.

We’ve added links to some of Clean Fleet Report’s test drives and news of the listed models.

  1. 2017 Chevrolet Bolt

Lease price: $329/month, range: 238 miles

Chevrolet Bolt

Bolts top our list

Boasting the best range on this list, the Chevy Bolt is the first “affordable” car to compete with Tesla’s range. While it is more expensive than the other cars on this list, its enormous range makes the Bolt a potential game-changer for the electric car market. We like it a lot; one Clean Fleet Report writer even leased one.

  1. 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Lease price: $275/month, range: 124 miles

Available in various configurations, including traditional and plug-in hybrids, as well as electric, the Ioniq is extremely flexible. Despite its lease price and range, the Ioniq seems to have gone under the radar compared to others on this list, but is a steal at $275/month.

  1. 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

Lease price: $279/month, range: 125 miles

Featuring a big range boost from the previous model, the 2017 e-Golf now has a 125-mile range compared to 83 before, and at $279/month is a bargain for a car with this range.

  1. 2017 Ford Focus Electric

Lease price: $204/month, range: 115 miles

With an increased range and lower price, the 2017 Focus Electric is a big upgrade on the previous model, and is a good value, sporty car.

Fiat 500e

Fiat 500e

  1. 2017 Fiat 500e

Lease price: $89/month, range: 84 miles

First in the style-stakes, the Fiat 500e is pretty much a design classic – combining retro charm with bright and quirky colours. While other cars on this list offer a superior range, none can compete with the 500e in the price-stakes.

  1. 2017 Nissan Leaf

Lease price: $199/month range: 107 miles

2017 Nissan Leaf

2017 Nissan Leaf

The best selling electric car of all time, the Leaf is still the standard-bearer and is a roomy compact with a good range. With the Focus Electric outperforming it at a similar price, however, there is better value to be had in an increasingly busy market. Leaf deals may increase before the longer-range, restyled 2018 model hits dealers.

  1. 2017 Kia Soul EV

Lease price: $159/month, range: 93 miles

The Soul EV is a spacious car, with room for five passengers and plenty of cargo space. Boasting one of the lowest lease prices in the market and a decent range, this is a real bargain.

  1. 2017 BMW i3

BMW i3

BMW i3

Lease price $289/month, range: 81 miles

The popular i3 is a good looking and luxurious electric car, with a competitive price for a prestige brand. WIth the 2017 range extender, the i3’s performance is boosted even further to 125 miles, for $329/month, a good price for a quality vehicle.

  1. Honda Clarity EV

Lease price: $269/month, range: 89 miles

Performing well since its release in August, the Clarity EV is a big, spacious sedan. While there are better value cars on this list in terms of range and lease price, this is still a quality vehicle.

  1. Tesla Model 3

Lease price: not released, range: 215 miles

While Tesla are having some issues with production, the Model 3 represents the manufacturer’s first foray into the affordable market. With a range matched only by the Bolt, the Model 3 is a luxurious sedan at a great price (the base MSRP is $35,000). Expect this car to shoot up the list once Tesla releases leasing details.

Events: National Drive Electric Week 2017

Events: National Drive Electric Week 2017

EV Lovers and Learners Meet

National Drive Electric Week (NDEW) is an annual celebration of electric cars, which has grown larger and more popular each year since its inception in 2011.

This year, NDEW ran from September 9 to 17. I attended three events—including one I hosted.

San Mateo Event – Saturday, September 9

I began my NDEW adventure on the first day of the nine-day NDEW “week” in San Mateo, California, not far from my office. I thought I’d not simply attend, but participate. The organizer asked me if I was willing to take people for rides in my Chevrolet Bolt EV—I said, “sure!”

NDEW 2017

EVs from past and present come out for NDEW 2017

I arrived about 45 minutes early and staged my car at one end of the event near a driveway that took me to the main road. The plan was for people interested in a ride to sign up and I would take them on a two-minute trip around the neighborhood. Someone was already waiting for me at noon when the event started.

So, I took my first person for a trip around the block, per the instructions and map I was given. We spoke about a few of the car’s features, and how even though he was a large man he felt OK in the famously narrow seat of my Bolt EV. I took a second person for a ride, too, and then, when I came back, I took a few moments to step away. I got an offer from John, the owner of a Tesla Model S, to drive his car. What a fun little ride that was.

New Drivers

When the next person stepped up to my car, he asked to drive, and I thought, “Well, if John let me drive his fancy Model S, maybe I can let this guy drive my Bolt.” So, from then on, I had a driver every time—although I had some riders, too—in the back seat.

NEDW 2017

Bolts of blue

As it turned out, the Bolt was the most popular car in the ride pool, so I spent nearly all of the three-hour event in my car. That’s OK. My goal was to provide a positive EV experience to help entice more people to buy or lease them. I think my car made a good impression on the people who drove it.

There were booths and other cars on display, but with my car’s popularity, I didn’t get a chance to see them. I would get a chance to do that later in the week.

My Event at Work – Wednesday, September 13

I work for Marketo, a Silicon Valley marketing software company. We have a couple of dozen electric car drivers, so I thought it would be a great idea for National Drive Electric Week to invite our fellow employees and other tenants of our shared buildings to see our cars.

It took some planning and organization to get this going, including help from my two EV buddies, Robert and Joe, support from Srikant, a company VP and Bolt owner, assistance and encouragement from Shun, who guided my internal event process and participation from Keith and Candice, who filmed and photographed my work event.

NEDW 2017

A variety of EVs & PHEVs showed up for the events

On event day, we displayed 13 electric vehicles at our show. Attendees had a chance to meet the owners/drivers, who shared information and their enthusiasm for plug-in vehicles on a pleasant, but slightly windy afternoon.

While enjoying a free lunch of sandwiches and wraps from iJava, attendees checked out the EVs, starting with Chevrolet’s award-winning all-electric Bolt EV, two generations of its plug-in hybrid cousin Volt, and the spunky little Chevy Spark, which was brought by an enthusiastic neighbor.

Other cars included the pioneering Nissan Leaf, the unusually styled BMW i3, cute Fiat 500e, impressive Tesla Model X and fun-to-drive Volkswagen e-Golf.

Surprise automotive “guests” included a tiny 2008 Tesla Roadster—the first Tesla model—and one of the limited-production Toyota RAV4 EVs.

I learned a few things about staging events. I kept it simple, but overall, the event helped gain exposure for EVs at my company. If we’re successful, there will be waiting lines at our 12 charging stations before long.

Cupertino Event – Saturday, September 16

My third event was in Cupertino—deep in the heart of Silicon Valley. From the promotional materials on the NDEW website, I expected a lot of action. I decided to forego any driving and I had no hosting duties. I just carried my notebook, met people, and investigated what was happening in the various booths set up in Parking Lot B of De Anza College.

NEDW 2017

A pair of golden oldies from the first EV era

I parked next to an identical Blue Bolt in the parking lot, already a good sign. Arriving right when the event started, there was plenty of room. So far, the event area was uncrowded.

The first thing I saw was a printed archway, stating that the Electric Auto Association was celebrating 50 years, and that this was the 45th Annual Rally and Show. The pioneers of EV enthusiasm must have been building their own vehicles, because that’s long before you could walk into a dealership and drive an EV home!

The event featured several historic EVs, from a rare 1997 GM EV1 saved from the crusher to two incredible oldies—a 1916 Detroit Electric and a slim 1905 Studebaker from the very early days of motoring. Electric cars had their heyday early in the 20th Century, but when gasoline became widely available and good roads expanded, demand dropped off and by the 1920s, they were gone.

The EV1 is the star of the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car. It was a valiant, but ultimately short-lived experiment at the end of the last century by GM to build a viable electric car. The one shown, from the Sacramento Auto Museum, was gorgeous, although it appeared the electric motor had been removed. If GM had followed up that model and put their engineers to work on EVs 20 years ago, they could have been the overwhelming leaders by now. Perhaps introducing the excellent new Bolt is some form of penance. Many Bolts were there.

Rod Diridon Speaks

I had a chance to hear Rod Diridon, Sr., speak about EVs. A retired politician and retired emeritus executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute, he has been a passionate advocate for and driver of EVs for decades. His cars have including a converted Porsche 914, two EV1s (from 1999 to 2002), and now, a Tesla Model S.

NEDW 2017

The star of the second coming of EVs–GM’s EV1

Stating that 40 percent of our carbon emissions come from cars and trucks, Diridon told the crowd matter-of-factly about the urgent need to cut our CO2 emissions now to slow down climate change. He said that scientists had said that we had 10 to 20 years left before irreversible radical changes in the atmosphere would make life difficult on the planet.

“When your grandchildren look you to you in the future, will it be a tear of happiness in their eye or of sadness?” he asked us. “They’ll ask you, did you try as hard as you could back then?”

I explored the all-new 2018 Leaf, which Nissan featured in front of its own fancy tent. While some folks entered information in to computers and claimed swag, I spoke with Nissan PR rep Steve Diehlman about the new car. The new Leaf is much more attractive on the outside, with contemporary styling, including a chrome V style grille and swirling horizontal wrap-around taillamps in keeping with today’s Nissan styling. Inside you’ll find a pleasant, but conservative design that helps remove any of the oddness of the old model. EVs are more common now, so there’s no need to make them look weird to distinguish them.

NDEW Week, Nissan Leaf

The new Nissan Leaf dials back unique styling a notch

The new Leaf claims a 150-mile range from its 40-kWh battery, which is a significant improvement over the old one, but is not competitive with the new Bolt and Tesla Model 3. However, Diehlman countered that most people don’t really need more than 150 miles of range, and importantly—the new Leaf costs $670 less than the old one but has a 33 percent larger battery with 43 miles more range. A 60-kWh battery is coming next year. The bottom line is that the new Leaf is appealing, and with a price of about $30,000 before any rebates, is significantly less expensive than either of its longer-range competitors.

I walked by groups of same-marque models—a cluster of Teslas, a colorful rainbow of Bolts, a couple of Kia Soul EVs, and even a pair of tiny Corbin Sparrows. I also visited several booths from companies and organizations related to EVs.

Organizations That Joined the Program

Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCleanEnergy.org) explained how you can order up your household electricity from clean sources, such as solar and wind. My question was, how does PG&E separate your clean electricity out from the other electricity? The way it works is that there is one large “pool” of electricity that everyone uses. However, it is sourced in various ways. So, when you indicate you want clean energy, you’re requesting it at the beginning of the process. It flows into the pool, but you use “generic” electricity for your home and car. The goal is to increase demand for more cleanly generated power, eventually pushing out the traditional carbon-creating methods entirely.

NEDW 2017

Nissan gave NDEW attendees a preview of the 2018 Leaf

Another interesting innovation is EVmatch (evmatch.com) a Southern California startup that facilitates people with home EV charging stations to make them available to other EV drivers, much as Airbnb does for homes. As a EV driver who’s a member, you can plan a trip in advance with your EV, accessing the additional home-based stations, which you can reserve as you travel. As a host, you gain income by renting out your station. And there are psychic benefits of sharing energy that are impossible to measure.

I asked EV Match CEO Heather Hochrein, “what if my charger is inside my garage?” She said the company was developing a way to remotely shut the charger on and off, so you could feed the cable under the garage door, and be able to turn it on for registered customers. A very interesting idea.

EV Charger Expert (evchargerexpert.com) had a booth, where Erin Finnegan explained the importance of installing your home charger correctly. Apparently, there’s an inspection required to do it right, and without that, it’s considered a fire hazard. I plan to check with them about installing my own home charger.

Silicon Valley Clean Cities (svcleancities.org) talked with me about the importance of clean air for health. They propose that you stop idling your car to improve urban air quality. I took away a small oval sticker that reads, “STOP Idling. START $aving.” It’s worth reading more about this South Bay non-profit.

On my way out, I bought a cool t-shirt from the Electric Auto Association.

Summing Up

Summing up, this was a great first year for me at these National Drive Electric Week events. There’s tremendous value in putting on and attending these meetings. Electric cars are here and readily available, but if people don’t understand their benefits and drive them, the cars can’t do their part to keep our planet a viable place to live for future generations. Making owners and experts available for conversation is the natural way to do it.

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