V.I.S.I.T. Turning Over a New Leaf Edition

Driving down the 210 Freeway in Glendale yesterday afternoon I came across an interesting sight – a Nissan Leaf volting its way down the road, right next to a similarly sized, but gas engined, Nissan Versa.
Shockingly, the Leaf not only was keeping up with the 70-mph plus traffic, but it also left the Versa in the dust, accelarating away with an unexpected alacrity, while probably draining a good half its range in return. There must be some law somewhere – probably enacted by the oil lobby – that electric cars need to look embarrassingly funky, and the Leaf is no exception. Still, it was interesting to see an all-electric car dicing it up in traffic on the freeway, and without a couple of pair of golf bags strapped to the back.

Eventually the novelty wore off and I easily managed to blow by the Leaf in my 20-MPG average Ford. Still, along with about a dozen Teslas and the occasional home-built, this is one of the few all-electric cars I have seen recently on the highway. Hopefully it won’t be the last.

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  1. Jim-Bob Avatar
    Jim-Bob

    I remain unconvinced that this is the future principally because you could buy 2 Versas for the price of one Leaf and the price per mile varies with utility rates. now if the Leaf was charged by solar panels it may be a different story, but with the lack of range it will be a log=ng time before you make up the difference in fuel cost savings versus the cost of the car. plus, with many states looking to enact a per mile road use tax on electric cars, it may be even longer before the savings are realized. I don't say this because I am a Luddite who is against reducing fuel consumption, far from it ( my current car gets 44-49 mpg in city traffic). I just see too many problems with electric cars for them to ever be a viable replacement for ICE power. Even if they were better than the current crop we are rapidly running out of the rare Earth elements needed to produce the highly efficient electric motors needed to build them. So I think they are cool as a novelty but as a viable alternative? No thanks. It just won't work out that way in the end.

    1. Sidecar57 Avatar
      Sidecar57

      I believe that something like 75% of the total energy that a car uses is consumed during it's manufacture.Electric cars seem to be addressing a totally different problem(one that doesn't exist perhaps?).My vote foe a truly green car goes to a traditional Morgan with a high performance,ie Efficient,engine.A hand made car with timber frame has got to be up there surely.

      1. Jim-Bob Avatar
        Jim-Bob

        It is a valid point. In fact, you can take it a step further and say that more modern cars are far less efficient with their use of natural resources than old ones in that they contain far more materials used in their construction, many of which use toxic processes in their manufacture. Constantly replacing built to a price cars with new models every 2-5 years is not only economically foolish but environmentally unsustainable as well.
        My vote for a sustainable car would not be a Morgan. Morgans are by their very nature expensive niche products that are above the financial reach of all but a rich few who can afford them. No, my vote would be for a 3 cylinder/5 speed Geo Metro. They were cheap to build and cheap to run and so simple that most people could learn how to maintain one themselves. They get fuel economy numbers comparable to a Toyota Prius but with a drivetrain that is light and easy to work on. In fact, the aluminum 3 cylinder engine can be lifted out of the engine bay by hand if it needs to be serviced. The design is fairly robust so long as you are aware of it's shortcomings and tend to it's maintenance properly. Like most simple, robust designs, the 1989 US variant is still in production in the developing world (Pak Suzuki Cultus). I also have a thing for the Maruti 800 (mid 80's Suzuki Alto) and the Nissan Tsuru ( 1991-94 US Sentra/1990-93 JDM Sunny). None of these cars will get less than 30 mpg city with a proper manual transmission (and most will top 50 mpg highway under the right conditions), many of them see 300,000 miles reliably and none sell new for less than about $8,000 USD. Luxurious? No. Sustainable? Yes. It's time we ask for LESS from a car instead of insisting on power windows, heated leather seats, sat/nav and a 5 star crash test rating. It's time for the return of the bare bones econobox.
        (Full disclosure: I drive a $250 1991 Geo Metro every day and have put 8,000 trouble free miles on it since I bought it in late December 2010. I can't say it's my favorite car to drive from my fleet but have never seen less than 39 mpg and have averaged 44 mpg-all city driving. I am partial to econoboxes due to the excessive number of miles I drive every year and to me MPG=Love.)

  2. west_coaster Avatar
    west_coaster

    Not to nitpick, Robert, but that's not the 210; it's the 134.
    (Sorry, but I became vigilant on freeway misidentification in the days of CHiPs, when every freeway mentioned on the show turned out to be the newly-constructed 210 or 118 through Sylmar and Mission Hills.)