This is the Nissan Leaf, the car maker's brand new global, mass-market electric vehicle.
The Leaf will go on sale in the US and Japan next year, and in Europe by 2012. It has an electric motor with 108bhp and 208lb ft of torque, a 100-mile operating range, and will be priced to compete with well-equipped C-segment saloons, at around £20,000.
The Leaf is based on an entirely new platform designed to accommodate newly developed batteries as and when they come on stream. Positioned underneath its cabin floor is a battery pack containing 48 individual lithium ion battery modules. The pack weighs 270kg and can hold 24kWh of energy – enough to give the car a 100-mile range and also to send it to 62mph in just under 10 sec. Maximum speed is 90mph.
Nissan has been doing research into lithium ion battery technology since 1992, and says its competitive advantage lies in its ability to use manganese to make the positive electrodes of its cells, rather than cobalt or nickel. As a result, they can be made much more cheaply than rival batteries.
However, the battery pack for the Nissan Leaf will be leased by the end user; it will not be sold along with the car.
Charging Nissan’s Leaf takes eight hours from a UK 240v supply, and 16 hours from a 110v socket. From a 400v three-phase charging station, an 80 per cent charge can be carried out in just 15 minutes.
However, the car will not be compatible with the Quickdrop battery swap centres that alliance partner Renault has mooted for its new breed of EVs.
“We don’t think Quickdrop centres are the right business model for Europe,” one Nissan executive told Autocar.
The Nissan Leaf has a cantilevered flap in its bonnet grille behind which is the socket for its charging plug. Otherwise it’s a distinctive but fairly ordinary-looking hatchback with a roomy, leather-clad cabin.
Nissan design chief Shiro Nakamura said at the car's unveiling at September's Frankfurt motor show: "We wanted this car to be distinctive and recognisable as a Nissan, but not too ‘out there’. It should look like a normal, familiar prospect, even if it won’t drive like one."
As a conventional family five door, the Leaf will also be welcomed by British buyers who regretted Nissan’s decision to abandon the European C-segment when it killed the last Almera. And as a completely emissions-free and affordable family car – a rival to Honda’s new Insight, Toyota’s Prius and GM’s forthcoming Ampera and Volt - it promises to be even cheaper to run and wins even greater environmental kudos.