The Nissan Leaf is described as "sweet, glycerin smooth, techy, frisky and even a little bit beautiful." (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times / November 13, 2009)
By Dan Neil
November 20, 2009
This thought came to me as I was piloting the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle prototype around Dodger Stadium last Friday: When gasoline-powered cars sleep at night, they dream of being electric.
Think about it: Every year, automotive engineers find new ways to smooth more rough edges off the conventional automobile. For example, long gone are the rude jolts that used to accompany gear changes in automatic transmissions. These have been ironed out either by continuously variable transmissions (which have no stepped gear intervals) or by sophisticated suites of computer programming that modulate engine torque at the precise moments of gear change. Even set-to-kill sports cars like Ferraris and Lamborghinis and Porsches -- cars that used to wrench your neck like a Leavenworth hanging -- now shift gears with a kind of eerie, liquid transparency. The only things that change are engine pitch and the needle on the tachometer.
This level of refinement, which is such a struggle to achieve in conventional cars, is a birthright of electric cars. In the Leaf -- an all-electric, five-passenger car that will start hitting American streets in late 2010 -- you step on the accelerator and the car spools out velocity in one continuous, syrupy stream. It's nothing short of elegant.
Once upon a time -- 10 years ago -- cars had such things as torque curves. Which is to say that, because of the peculiarities (the volumetric efficiency) associated with different internal combustion engine designs, each model of car hit maximum torque at a particular rpm. Cars with big American push-rod V8s under the hood typically had massive torque at lower rpm, and cars with multivalve overhead-cam fours and sixes hit peak torque at higher rpm.
These liabilities have been largely erased in the current generation of cars, thanks to computer-controlled throttles, variable valve timing and duration, forced induction and variable-geometry intake manifolds -- all of which help optimize the flow of gas in and out of an engine and establish a "flat" torque curve. In the case of a BMW twin-turbo 3.0-liter engine, for example, maximum torque comes at 1,400 rpm and doesn't start to go away until 5,000 rpm.
The BMW engine is, in other words, more like an electric motor. In fact, an EV's motor produces maximum torque at 0 rpm and maintains consistent torque across most of its operating speed range. That's what makes EVs such little hot rods -- loads of off-the-line quickness and mid-range punch.
During my all-too-brief drive, the Leaf prototype (clad in Nissan Versa bodywork), with three people on board, shot across the stadium parking lot like it had been pinged with a BB gun. Zero-to-40 mph acceleration, I estimate, is in the mid-5-second range, which would suit a decently sporty little car. Arrayed around the Leaf chassis is 90 kilowatts worth of lithium-ion batteries driving an electric motor good for 106 horsepower and a healthy 207 pound-feet of torque. According to Nissan, the Leaf's top speed is 90 mph and the nominal range is 100 miles.
One last tech-wonk example: Automakers are continuously evolving technology to help cars maintain traction and directional stability. With conventional traction and stability systems, if wheel slip or vehicle yaw is detected, the computers will pulse the appropriate wheel's brake or retard engine timing or both, until the vehicle regains stability. But this is a big, sloppy, coarse means of doing the job. What's needed is a finer-grain method of modulating wheel speed without scrubbing off all the speed and momentum.
Electric motors are instantly and almost infinitely variable, and are vastly more articulate with regard to changes in traction. This is why the Tesla Roadster, which can maintain almost 100% traction at the rear wheels under acceleration, corners harder and faster than the Lotus Elise upon which it is based.
Imagine the potential road-holding power of an all-wheel-drive electric sports car, such as Audi's promised e-Tron. Imagine what you could climb with an electric Jeep.
Here's my point: As repeatedly underlined at the Nissan Leaf's U.S. debut last week, the future of EVs comes down to the question of consumer acceptance. Will consumers buy them? Will they like them? What about battery leasing and recharging infrastructure, and carbon emissions? What about cost? These are reasonable questions.
But I predict consumer acceptance will ultimately be a nonissue. Why? Because the trajectory of vehicle engineering has trained car buyers to expect their next car to be smoother, quieter, quicker, more high-tech, with better cabin isolation and more road-holding, than the one before.
Two decades of computerization of the automobile have created a kind of well-oiled semiautonomous being, half semiconductor, half metal and glass. Many cars today have electric steering, electric brakes, virtual gauges, video camera mirrors, even virtual bumpers. In other words, cars are nearly electrified already.
The next logical -- even inevitable -- step in the evolution of the automobile is when we jettison the big, heavy, hammering, noisy piece of reciprocation under the hood.
The Leaf is definitely Car 2.0. Sweet, glycerin smooth, techy, frisky and even a little bit beautiful. It just feels like tomorrow. Perhaps the question is not "Will people buy them?" but "Can we build enough?"
AndyH wrote:Here's an old video that shows a bit more of the battery construction and a cut-away of the major systems. Battery closeups at 1:04.
liveforphysics wrote:I've managed to convince my mom to buy one of these Nissan Leaf's the moment they become available for sale.
[Nissan] PRESS RELEASE
Type: Laminated lithium-ion battery
Total capacity (kWh): 24
Power output (kW): Over 90
Number of modules: 48 [each containing 4 cells, so 192 total]
Battery pack contents:
-Positive electrodes Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Lithium manganate
-Negative electrodes Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Carbon
-Quick charger DC50kW (0 to 80%): apx. 30 min
-Home-use AC240V charging dock (0-100%): less than 8 hrs
Battery layout: Under seat & floor
Battery life: After 10 years, the battery is expected to have 70-80 percent of its original storage capacity
Toshi wrote:Other interesting bits from the article are that Nissan's Smyrna, TN plant, for which ground was figuratively broken yesterday, will have the capacity to build 200,000 battery packs per year. The nearby Leaf assembly plant only can build 150,000 Leafs per year at full capacity. This implies that Nissan will be selling excess battery packs to other manufacturers or will be building some non-Leaf BEVs or hybrids. Excellent.
Since shelving the electric Altra almost a decade ago, it has kept its eye on the all-electric prize, working non-stop on EV batteries. The automaker has pulled together big teams of engineers at its Technical Center and at its Advanced Technology Center in Atsugi, Japan, as well as at its Research Center in Oppama and its Operations Center in Zama. Their task: to build a higher-energy, lower-cost, EV battery.
The Leaf's engineering team says the resulting battery will take the car 100 miles between charges, without clogging up valuable space in the back seat or trunk. The key, they say, has been a dedicated 17-year effort that has resulted in a two-fold boost in the battery's energy density. By packing more energy into less volume, the battery provides Nissan engineers with choices - longer range or smaller batteries, or an idealized combination of the two. That's why they've been able to store the battery under the Leaf's floor while still reaching 100 miles of range.
"The breakthrough happened in 2002 or 2003," says Mark Perry, director of product planning for Nissan USA. "We changed the chemistry, went to laminate cells, and at the end of the day, we had twice the energy density. That allowed us to optimize the vehicle platform. Suddenly, we had a mass market vehicle concept."
dnmun wrote:they really should be giving the chargers away free,
Nissan Motor Co. is developing a lithium ion battery for electric vehicles that can store electricity at double the current capacity. Nissan aims to equip electric cars with the battery by 2015.
The new system is a lithium-ion battery using a lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide cathode. Capacity is raised by improving the positive electrode, specifically, using nickel and cobalt, not only manganese. The new battery can store about twice as much electricity as batteries with positive electrodes made only from manganese. It is robust enough for practical use, able to withstand 1,000 or so charge cycles.
Nissan estimates that the battery will cost about the same as conventional lithium ion ones to produce, as it contains only a small amount of cobalt, a relatively expensive metal.
The new battery will be able to power an electric vehicle for 300 kilometers (186 miles) on a single charge, about twice the distance currently possible.
Nissan say they have been working on EV batteries for the past 18 years and are currently working on a lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide cathode based battery that they expect to be fitting to Leaf EVs by 2015. With double the energy density of current cells, they will give the Leaf 200 miles range on a single charge.
Nissan expect this range combined with the money savings on EV running costs will 'tip' the market the same way the European market for Diesel cars 'tipped' 15 years ago.
Okay, despite the argument that there may not be a need for public chargers, we can't help but be giddy to announce that the U.S. finally has its first quick-charge station. The installation is now complete at the parking garage of the World Trade Center building in downtown Portland, OR, and the charger is capable of boosting most electric vehicle batteries from zero to 80 percent charge in just 20 to 30 minutes.
The grand opening event was led by Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, who is seen in the video after the jump cautiously attaching the charging cable to the Nissan Leaf. As Engadget reports, use of the quick-charge station is free of charge, but entry into the public parking garage will set you back three dollars. (Here's why.)
Portland General Electric opens North America's first public-use quick-charge station for electric vehicles in collaboration with NEC Electric vehicles can charge up in 20 to 30 minutes
PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland General Electric (NYSE: POR), Oregon's largest utility, and NEC Corporation (NEC; TSE: 6701), a leading network, communications and information technology company, announced today they have opened North America's first public-use, quick-charge station for electric vehicles.
The station was awarded public-use certification by the City of Portland following the successful installation and testing of the station manufactured by Takasago Ltd., a subsidiary of NEC, at the PGE headquarters in the Two World Trade Center parking garage, 121 SW Salmon St, Portland, Ore. The Takasago Rapid Charging Station is specialized for recharging electric vehicles with lithium-ion batteries and requires only 20 to 30 minutes to recharge a battery to 80 percent of full strength.
PGE and NEC officially opened the quick-charge station today with Governor Ted Kulongoski, who charged up an all-electric Nissan LEAF, during a two-day LEAF test drive event at PGE. Portland and the state of Oregon have been designated as top-tier launch markets for the Nissan LEAF when it goes on sale in the United States in December.
"Quick-charging stations are an exciting advancement in our effort to bring electric vehicles to Oregon," said Gov. Kulongoski. "By making charging convenient and available for public use, we are telling car manufacturers that Oregon is ready for the next generation of electric vehicles - and we want our state to be a leader in introducing these cars to the rest of the country."
"Partnering with NEC to bring the nation's first publicly available, quick-charge station to Oregon further solidifies PGE's commitment to developing the infrastructure needed to support electric vehicles now coming to the U.S. market," said Jim Piro, president and CEO, PGE.
"With the addition of the Takasago Rapid Charging Station to the growing network of EV charging stations in Oregon, we are able to further our research on how this new technology will interact with our electrical system and support our EV-driving customers," Piro added.
"This project reflects NEC's ongoing commitment to the development of new infrastructure that utilizes renewable resources. As a supplier of electric vehicle batteries, our introduction of the rapid electric vehicle charging station is a natural stage in the evolution of NEC's environmentally friendly solutions," said Hideki Niwaya, general manager, Public Utility Solutions Division, NEC. "Looking forward, NEC aims to continue developing mission critical solutions, including information and communications technologies (ICT) services and smart grids that represent the latest in technological innovation."
The Takasago Rapid Charging Station complies with the "CHAdeMO," a global EV charging standard developed in Japan. The station provides power output of 50kw (50-500V, 0-125A) and supports power input of AC200V+-30V.
PGE's alliance partner, Portland State University, and the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium will document the acquisition, installation, certification, and testing procedures for this quick charger and release its findings in September
Report: Nissan to allocate 2,000 Leafs to UK in 2011, half headed to fleets
Aug 14th 2010 at 5:52PM
Last weekend, Nissan revealed some info regarding the Leaf's availability and its allocation in the UK and managed to do so with little fanfare and virtually no media coverage. It's almost as if Nissan intended to slip this announcement by without us getting wind of some pertinent info that could make electric vehicle-loving residents of the UK a bit angered. What's the news? Half of the Leafs headed to the UK in 2011 will be reserved for fleet use. The company also suggested that its allocation of 1,000 Leafs have already been claimed by fleet customers. A Nissan spokesperson said:We probably could have sold all of next year's allocation to fleet customers, but we wanted to make sure retail customers who wanted to buy the Leaf were able to, so we decided to split equally between fleet and retail.
Combining the statements above gives us the impression that Nissan intends to ship just 2,000 Leafs to the UK in 2011, with half headed to the retail market. Now, that will likely upset those early adopters who may find it hard to get their hands on a Leaf for a long while, but Nissan could have allocated all of the 2011 model run to fleets, thus making it impossible to get one in the UK until 2012. Thankfully, Nissan did not choose to follow that route.
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