Near miss with a flying Leaf

I almost got hit by a Leaf the other day. Had it happened, not only would I have likely been badly hurt, but the consequences could have had a potential impact on the electric vehicle industry for years to come.

Let me explain.

The near disaster took place at mid-day in a busy Southern California intersection. Having a clear green light and two lanes of stopped traffic to my left, I slowly guided the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist I was driving into the intersection. Suddenly, a silver Nissan Leaf came whizzing through the open third traffic lane and racing into the intersection aimed right into my path.

The driver of the Leaf slammed on her brakes just a couple of feet from the front bumper of my Buick LaCrosse.

After catching our collective breaths, the driver and I exchanged glances, and then a thankful  grin before I nursed the LaCrosse’s gas pedal to continue moving on.

Then I began to wonder:

  • What was she thinking about when she didn’t notice the red light and stopped traffic? Was she enjoying the silent ride of the all-electric Nissan Leaf?
  • Perhaps she was so ecstatic about the Leaf’s amazingly zippy pick-up that she forgot how fast she was going. With no torque to rev up, the throttle-to-wheels time is almost instantaneous.
  • Or was she just not used to stopping her car at all? Never having to stop at a gas station for a fill-up can spoil a person, you know. She was probably counting the money she was saving by not buying gas.

On a global scale, I thought about the potential consequences that this collision could have had on the electric car industry. While most emergency personnel have plenty of experience handling gasoline spills, would they know what to do with leaking acid from a damaged battery?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in a report released last month, the agency said it “remains unaware of any real-world crashes that have resulted in a battery-related fire involving the Chevy Volt or any other electric vehicle. NHTSA continues to believe that electric vehicles show great promise as a safe and fuel-efficient option for American drivers.”

So had that little near-miss with a Leaf actually been a direct hit, you can be sure that Nissan and NHTSA officials would have been on the scene as quickly as possible to inspect and analyze the damage to the Leaf’s battery.

As for my Buick LaCrosse with eAssist, I’m pretty sure it would have stood up fairly well against the little Leaf. And even though it’s not called a “hybrid,” the eAssist system helps the LaCrosse achieve an average fuel mileage of 25 mpg city and 37 mpg highway.

Nevertheless, that’s one collision with a Leaf that I am happy to have avoided.

— Keith Turner

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