Electric, zero-emission Leaf is landing near you

While the auto journalists covering the LA Auto Show didn’t see hide nor hair of Nissan this week, a small group of scribes  were gathering in the festively decorated  Santana Row near San Jose to get a sneak peek of the all-electric, zero emission Nissan Leaf.

The 2010 Leaf was available not only to look at, but to drive. And judging by the positive response from the journalists who took a few laps around the top of a parking garage, the Leaf earned flying colors in performance, handling and noise abatement.

Here’s a video of  how Michael Kanellos of GreenTech Media experienced the ride and another of his interview with Mark Perry, director of product planning for Nissan.

The styling of the Leaf is dramatic, true to Nissan fashion. Taking a page out of the Toyota Prius marketing handbook, the Leaf designers went out of their way to create a car that is distinctive enough to grab the attention of others on the road.

The interior is Jetson-like, with digital displays for speed and meter readings, and a navigation control panel that looks more like a video screen than a stereo system.

The plug-in receptacle is in front, providing easy recharging from the garage wall or any other e-station.

The Leaf is expected to have a range of 100 miles per charge with a top speed of 90 mph. It can be quickly recharged in 26 minutes with a 480 volt fast charger, or fully charged in eight hours using a 220 volt home-charging unit.

San Diego will be the first city to have Leaf charging stations, with 50 planned by the time the car rolls out in December 2010. San Francisco will quickly follow.

The pricing of the Leaf has not been released, but informed opinion has the starting price at under $30,000, with a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 available to lighten the burden at tax time.

Nissan is also considering  interesting options for the Leaf battery, including a lease plan where you’ll qualify for upgrades when more advanced batteries come along.

The economics of the auto biz have clearly changed the way Nissan is approaching the Leaf’s rollout. Rather than spending many thousands on auto show glitz and glamor, Nissan is taking the Leaf  on tour to cities throughout the U.S. to let the media and public get and up-close and personal view of this extraordinary vehicle.

For a tour schedule, check here.


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