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Nissan Leaf  (Source: nissanusa.com)
It will produce the Leaf in Tennessee starting Thursday

Nissan didn't manage to meet its goals for 2012, but the auto company is looking forward to a better 2013 by starting Leaf production in the United States.

Nissan announced that it will begin Leaf production at a new plant in Smyrna, Tennessee this Thursday. It will build the Leaf and gasoline vehicles in this plant, while building batteries at a separate plant next door.

The plant is the result of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) loan for $1.4 billion in 2010. According to the DOE, Nissan can build up to 150,000 Leafs and 200,000 batteries annually at the Tennessee plants.

Nissan added that the new plants have created over 300 manufacturing jobs. In 2010, the DOE expected that both projects would create about 1,300 jobs. Nissan said the number of jobs is expected to increase over time.


Nissan's Leaf had a tough time last year as far as sales and performance goes. In July 2012, Leaf owners in Arizona complained that their EVs were losing significant battery capacity in the desert's hot heat. Nissan responded by basically saying that this was normal, and promised more open communication with owners of the Leaf EV.

Later, Nissan had to admit that it wasn't going to hit its sales mark for 2012, which was 20,000 Leafs. However, it only sold 9,819 Leafs for the whole year -- less than half of its goal, and only 1.5 percent higher than the number it sold in 2011.

Nissan had even more ambitious goals back in 2010 when it announced that it would sell 500,000 EVs per year by the end of 2013. However, in October 2012, Nissan saw the reality of its sales and adjusted that number to 1.5 million EVs sold cumulatively by 2016.

Source: The Detroit News



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Good
By Cluebat on 1/10/2013 7:25:15 AM , Rating: 2
Although I am skeptical generally about the economics of renewable energy, I would buy one of these if I were not afraid of rising electricity costs.

I would prefer a setup where the battery can be easily swapped out for road trips and for home PV charging.

I am confident that batteries will be improving in the near term.

Does any reader have one of these? Do they seem to be well-built? Aside from battery performance I mean.




RE: Good
By CharonPDX on 1/10/2013 10:11:58 AM , Rating: 2
"afraid of rising electricity costs"?

Let's assume you have a short/medium-length city commute of 10 miles each way.

A Prius, getting 50 miles per gallon, at $3.00 per gallon of gas, will cost you $24 per month. (20 work days.)

A Leaf is rated at 34 kWh/100 miles. Electricity prices in the US vary wildly, from about 6 cents per kWh to about 20 cents per kWh. So yes, in the most expensive part of the country (Hawaii,) a Leaf will cost more than a Prius per mile. But everywhere else (including second-and-third-most-expensive states NY and AK,) the Leaf will be cheaper (At NY's current rate, is a draw.) In the vast majority of the country, the Leaf will be a clear winner, with my location (Portland, OR) coming in at about $10 per month. If I were to use more expensive 100% renewable power, it would come to $15 per month.

As for the battery swapping, yeah, the Leaf doesn't have this easily. The Tesla S does, with Tesla saying that they will create "battery swap centers" where you can bring your car in and either have your battery swapped out with a fresh fully charged one of equal capacity for a small fee (they hinted it should be about as much as filling up with an equivalent amount of gas,) or swap out for a larger battery, leasing the larger battery for slightly more (to take longer trips, for example.)

And they're trying to make it a VERY fast swap process, automated, so that you could pull in, swap, and leave in less time than filling a gas car. The idea would be to have these spaced close enough that you can do true long distance driving, with stops approximately equal in length to using a gas car. (I haven't checked to see the status of how far along they are in this process, though.)


RE: Good
By Spuke on 1/10/2013 11:10:20 AM , Rating: 2
It's interesting how everyone's numbers are different. I have a longer commute and I live in CA. My figures, which I don't have handy, were a LOT more for an EV than an alternate gas car. Did you figure in the costs of each car you were considering? Maintenance? Insurance? Repairs? I was able to justify a hybrid Fusion and Camry but ended up getting a BMW X1 instead (car is for the wife and a BMW is her dream car). Still saved money over the diesel pickup truck she was driving before.


RE: Good
By conquistadorst on 1/11/2013 9:19:47 AM , Rating: 2
I was just in Hawaii for a few weeks. While I am sure there are some, I did not personally see a single EV my entire vacation. This really surprised me because they had wind generators and solar panels on every home galore. And yes, I drove ~700 miles so I spent a good deal of time on the road and not just in the parks and beaches. After weighing the costs, it really made perfect sense to never see an EV because an increased cost to electricity makes an EV uneconomical from every angle. I agree with CharonPDX, rising electricity costs would completely annihilate the EV market. ***UNLESS*** gas prices also rose proportionally which also cannot be denied as a possibility.

Also, unfortunately, your math may be a little off because it does not include delivery costs from the utility. In some bills, the "delivery charges" can account to nearly half the bill which includes both flat rate and a per KWH costs.


RE: Good
By SublimeSimplicity on 1/10/2013 10:35:07 AM , Rating: 2
"I would buy one of these if I were not afraid of rising electricity costs."

I'd be more afraid of rising gasoline costs. With a gasoline car, you're locked into one energy source. With an electric car, the energy source is open to anything that can be converted to electricity.

Plus even in locations where electricity is expensive, there's usually a much better rate for charging off-peak (at night).


RE: Good
By Dr. Kenneth Noisewater on 1/10/2013 12:49:59 PM , Rating: 2
When the energy density improvements that are nearing production finally make it into BEVs (such as lower-cost >=400Wh/kg that would allow for doubling range within the same weight budget) I'll think about trading my Volt in for one..

Though I'd rather have an EREV with a custom-designed genset and a bigger traction motor (or two) for quite awhile longer yet.


RE: Good
By Mint on 1/10/2013 1:03:23 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, PHEV is the future of the mass market automobile. I can't wait until they get bigger traction motors, because an extra 100hp of electric power adds much less cost than adding 100hp to an ICE.

Still, pure EVs like the Leaf will have their niche. Many families have a secondary car, and more often than not they're used cars. If an EV saves them $1000/yr on gas and has very low maintenance costs, then they'll price that into the resale value.


RE: Good
By SublimeSimplicity on 1/10/2013 1:16:48 PM , Rating: 2
If I was single, there's no way I'd buy a BEV. They're strictly 2nd vehicle commuter cars at the moment. The Tesla Model S + supercharging stations is the first BEV that's viable as a household's only car. At over $100k, it limits its market in other ways :)

Produce a Model S spec'd car for a LEAF's price tag and hybrids will become a very small market share.


RE: Good
By Mint on 1/11/2013 5:53:22 AM , Rating: 2
That a major technological breakthrough away. I think BEVs face a huge uphill battle against PHEV for the mainstream.

Take a Leaf, and for maybe $3k you can add a simple 30hp engine along with a generator (the engine is <$1k online). Cruising on the highway at 75mph needs <25 hp, so this is enough for you to drive long distance, and as long as the batteries are held around 10%, they can drain temporarily for extra power during passing or going up a hill.

It'll only be used when exceeding 70 miles per day, which should only be maybe 15% of annual mileage (during which maybe you average 25MPG for this cheapo solution). So you get 80-90% of the fuel savings of the Model S but only need 1/3rd of the battery capacity plus $3k.

It's going to be next to impossible for BEVs to overcome this. I don't foresee technology ever allowing us to triple the Leaf's battery for only a few thousand dollars.


RE: Good
By NotTarts on 1/12/2013 8:18:20 PM , Rating: 2
You can actually pick up a Model S with supercharging capability for around $72k before the tax credit. Not exactly cheap, but not over $100k either :)


RE: Good
By toffty on 1/10/2013 12:01:20 PM , Rating: 2
A good way to figure cost out is to determine your dollars per mile.

I figured my 2005 Prius was 8 cents per mile @ $3 per gallon
I've found my 2012 Leaf is 2 cents per mile @ 12 cents per kWh.

The thing about electricity, compared to oil, is that the price is relatively stable. The other benefit is that you can install solar panels on your house and the Leaf is then powered, basically, for free - this is what I've done. My solar array gives me/the grid enough power that I pay nothing per month for electricity. I've driven 10k miles now paying nothing for the car besides car washes ;)

As for the build of the Leaf I've been very happy with it. The drive is very quiet (no roaring engine) and after I replaced the speakers with better ones it's an amazing ride. The instant torque is also great. The 2013 Leaf will be even better since the charge rate is doubles (charge time halved). Driving distance is fine. I know I can always go 70 miles and if I really need to I can go 100 - just have to keep the car at or below 55 mph. As for battery life, just charge the battery to 75% charge (there's a setting for this) every day. On days when you'll need to have a full charge, log into the car's portal via the nissan website and tell it to start charging to full. It does require a little more planning but the price saving over gas/oil changes and the knowledge that I am no longer supporting OPEC is well worth it!


RE: Good
By Spuke on 1/10/2013 2:01:55 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
The other benefit is that you can install solar panels on your house and the Leaf is then powered, basically, for free - this is what I've done.
Unless that solar array was given to you, it's not free or even basically free. I really wish people would stop saying this as it's misleading. One of my neighbors bought into that lie when they bought their solar array. Their production is WAY lower than they were told and expected. I had to teach them how it was supposed to work. It was producing as it should they just weren't told that production is way lower in the winter and it doesn't work at night (they thought there was some kind of storage...there isn't in a grid tie system typically). Also, they're still using propane for heat, the largest energy expense in our area ($3.60 a gallon...fill a tank once per month in the winter...100 gal tank) so any electricity produced from the panels that could offset heating usage is wasted. My wife and I already know that the furnace will have to be switched to electric with any alternate energy source we decide to use (we're going with wind cause it works at night and it's always windy here).


RE: Good
By toffty on 1/11/2013 2:57:50 PM , Rating: 1
If you're using your neighbors as your only sample in a case study, you're as dumb as they are.

I did my research and studied my average power usage + future usage with EV cars. I calculated exactly what I needed. I now save 1k a year in electricity. My payback from my solar installation is 10 years - it will take this long because electricity is relatively cheap @ 12 cents / kW. In CA many southern states payback can be as low as 4 years.

My solar array is tied right back into the grid so I do get paid by my power provider for the energy I sell them. It is at half the rate though so when calculating my solar array I made sure that I'd basically break even and I do. I think I over produced by 1% last year which is right on.


RE: Good
By Mint on 1/11/2013 4:56:01 PM , Rating: 2
The problem is that while this benefits you, it will wind up costing everyone else. Because solar isn't available all the time, solar doesn't take away an ounce of fossil fuel capacity needs as a community grows. It only reduces the kWh's the utilities get to sell.

But since their construction cost doesn't go down, that means means they'll have to charge more per kWh to stay in business and expand as needed. Their thermal efficiency goes down too when solar reduces the baseload. This is one of those cases where individual cost optimization doesn't lead to community cost optimization.

If we get a miracle in energy storage, solar and wind will make more sense. Until then, it's a bad path to pursue.


RE: Good
By Cluebat on 1/10/2013 2:48:48 PM , Rating: 2
Thank you.

I hope that if I were to get one of these that the car would outlast the battery. I expect ten years from now battery technology will be much better and I will not be stuck with something that I can't sell and doesn't make sense to repair.

The car that I am driving now is nearly twenty years old and gets decent milage. Any new car that I buy should wear as well and not be a disposable vehicle.


RE: Good
By Spuke on 1/10/2013 3:00:54 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It does require a little more planning but the price saving over gas/oil changes and the knowledge that I am no longer supporting OPEC is well worth it!
LOL! You're still supporting OPEC. Your car has tires does it not? And I won't mention anything using plastic.


RE: Good
By johnsmith9875 on 1/10/2013 3:39:44 PM , Rating: 2
Actually plastics production comes mainly from natural gas.


RE: Good
By toffty on 1/11/2013 2:50:54 PM , Rating: 2
Oh a**holes... Never can get away form them

Yep I do still support OPEC but at a fraction of what I did previously.


RE: Good
By Dr of crap on 1/10/2013 12:59:58 PM , Rating: 2
"...if I were not afraid of rising electricity costs."

Did you think your electric bill is going to double or something?

And rise for what reason?
Electricity is cheap by any means, just don't heat with it.


RE: Good
By Cluebat on 1/10/2013 2:52:40 PM , Rating: 3
"Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket." (January 2008)

I don't know what to expect.


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