On December 11th, 2010, Olivier Chalouhi became the very first person in the world to own Nissan’s brand-new five-seat electric family hatchback, the 2011 Nissan LEAF.
Four years and some 150,000 cars later, the Nissan LEAF is the world’s most popular electric car, with more than 1 billion recorded kilometres since launch. Made in three different factories around the globe, the Nissan LEAF has been setting consecutive sales records month on month, and can now be found in pretty much every major city around the world.
Earlier this month, we were lucky enough to tour Nissan’s battery production facility in Sunderland, England, to get a pre-birthday sneak peek at how Nissan makes its LEAF battery packs. At the same time, Nissan is heavily engaged in a big-bucks mainstream marketing campaign for its first ever mass-produced electric car, turning its attention towards mainstream buyers rather than stereotypical ‘early adopters.’
So rather than cover Nissan’s LEAF sales to date or cover its many online, print, and broadcast advertisements, we’ve decided to celebrate the Nissan LEAF’s fourth birthday in a different way: we’re going to look at four unusual or exceptional LEAFs which we think deserve a special mention on this special day.
With a real-world range of somewhere between 70 and 90 miles per charge depending on weather and driving style, the Nissan LEAF is primarily a short-range, commuter car. And while LEAF models fitted with a CHAdeMO DC quick charging port can charge their battery packs from empty to 80 percent full in around 30 minutes, most LEAFs sold won’t get used as high-mileage commuters.
For Washington state resident Steve Marsh however, his black 2011 Nissan LEAF has been a trusty workhorse. With a 130-mile round work commute, Marsh purchased his Nissan LEAF in 2011 as a way to save money on gas, and has been piling on the miles ever since.
When we last checked up on Steve back in December last year, his LEAF had just rolled over 100,000 miles and was going strong, although it had lost around 17 percent of its original battery capacity and needed to stop a little longer at rapid chargers in order to make it to and from work. With all the money he’s saved on fuel however, we’re pretty sure Marsh is still happy with his purchase.
While Marsh’s LEAF is among the highest-mileage private LEAFs we know of, there are plenty of other high-mileage cars in fleet service, including ones which operate as Taxis around the world. Rumor has it some have even passed 200,000 miles without fault.
When you book into a luxury hotel and ask the concierge to arrange a car to pick you up from the airport, the chances are you’ll be met by either an independent limousine airport shuttle service or the hotel’s own gas-guzzling limousine or luxury SUV.
But book a night at the Embassy Suites Nashville South, Tennessee, and you’ll be met from the airport in a stretched zero emissions Nissan LEAF. Commissioned by the hotel and built by a firm from Missouri, the stretched white LEAF limo has been stretched to add an additional row of seating, but uses the same 24 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack found in every other production LEAF to date.
Inside, the car’s original interior has been given a luxury makeover, replacing its original fabric seats and practical fabric interior with plush leather, deep pile carpet and wood panelling.
Pick me up
Unless you include the range-extended plug-in hybrid pickup offered by Via Motors or the unusual-looking Condor pickup truck, there aren’t any electric pickup trucks on sale anywhere in the world right now. And that’s a shame, since at the turn of the century, both Ford and GM produced limited numbers of all-electric pickup trucks at the same time that the original RAV4 EV and GM EV1 were rolling off the production lines.
That lack of electric pickup truck was even maligned by Nissan’s own engineers at Nissan’s technical centre in Arizona. In need of something to take parts from one part of the site to the other, some of Nissan’s top engineers took a standard production Nissan LEAF and made their own.
The result? a two-seat, super-cute pickup truck that we’re rather fond of. Sure, it’s not a production model and it won’t do all that well off-road — but if it’s got room for a couple of bales of hay in the back, we love it.
Batman has his Batmobile, Dr Who has his TARDIS (and a unique collection of vehicles while stranded on earth), and Michael Knight has KITT.
But over in Japan, there’s a superhero called Ultraman, and he has a Nissan LEAF and a Nissan e-NV200 to help him fight crime.
Although the original comic series started back in the 1960s, the latest reincarnation of Ultraman — called Ultraman Ginga S — takes place on planet earth. And as a consequence, the humans helping Ultraman need a set of wheels to get around.
It’s certainly an unusual form of product placement, but throughout the series both vehicles — fitted with the prerequisite sci-fi extras like lasers and smoke canons — perform more than just transport for the heres.
Our favourites include using each vehicle’s charging ports to power high-tech laser rifles and providing backup power to a military base whose power supply has been taken out by a giant monster.
Here in the real world, while crime-fighters don’t have the neat extras, more police fleets than ever before are using Nissan LEAFs as community patrol vehicles and transportation for non emergency duties, saving their precincts money on fuel and promoting environmental issues at the same time.
There are many more
Of course, we could go on. There are the self-driving LEAFs being tested by Nissan; the LEAFs that help power office blocks in a power cut; and even a LEAF that helps make Scottish Whiskey.
But whatever your favourite LEAF, we think you’ll join in with us and wish the Nissan LEAF a very happy Birthday. Here’s to many more years.
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