Dan Read03 August 2009

Leaf blower

Nissan shows off its proper full-sized hatch powered entirely by batteries. And the Mackems are building some of the first models

See more Nissan Leaf pics

This is the Nissan Leaf - a new, purely electric hatchback to fill the gap in the electro market between the G-Wiz and Tesla.
 
And that's a big gap. Nissan reckons this is the world's most affordable, real-world electric car - expect it to cost around £20,000 when it goes on sale in 2012 - and the Japanese firm could be on to something.
 
First, it looks like a normal car rather than an embarrassing bubble mobile. The Leaf's batteries are layered like Lasagne tiers, making them easier to cool than traditional cylindrical cells. That means it's easier to package, hence the Leaf adopts a more regular car-like shape.
 
The styling is also purposeful - those headlights are designed to pierce the air and direct it precisely and efficiently around the car. They use LED bulbs too, which use just 10 per cent of the power of a regular headlight.
 
And the Leaf has a decent wedge performance. Not quite as much as a Tesla, of course, but 80Kw (that's 113bhp in old money) and 280Nm (206lb ft) will see it to 60mph in around 11 seconds. Enough, in other words, to make it feel punchy and useable in most real-world scenarios.
 
There is one flaw in the plan: the range. Unless you want to tow a lorry's worth of spare batteries, you'll be stopping every 100 miles or so to charge up. Nissan is working with local authorities around the UK to get charge points installed in service stations and other useful places. The North East is the first area to sign up, which is handy because that's where some of the world's Leaf's will be built, in the company's Sunderland plant.
 
If it catches on, Nissan reckons 10 per cent of its cars will be all-electric by 2020, at which point the G-Wiz will be a distant, nasty memory. 

Now watch Jeremy test the electric Tesla:

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