A new day has dawned, and purveyors of petroleum should be plenty nervous. Vehicles running on electricity have arrived and more are on the way from well-known brands such as Ford, BMW, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Smart.
But the EV that sets the benchmark for others to meet — because it's the first one to be affordable, functional for five occupants and practical for everyday driving — is the Nissan Leaf.
For its groundbreaking zero-emissions potential and for reinforcing the notion that every vehicle, from EV to muscle car, must be fun to drive, the Leaf earns a spot on the Ward's 10 Best Engines list, the first EV to do so in the competition's 17 years.
Of course, there's the matter of range anxiety. With its 24 kWh lithium-ion battery pack fully charged, the Leaf can run for 100 miles (160 km). But the range plummets if cold or hot weather require steady use of the climate control.
The Leaf isn't for everybody — neither are muscle coupes and 4-wheel-drive SUVs — but it's ideal for someone in a moderate climate with a short commute, limited spontaneous travel needs, a penchant for conservation and a second vehicle that can be driven long distances.
This is the car environmentally minded politicians want. Let's see how many consumers will want it, too.
BATTERY: 24 KWH LITHIUM-ION
ACCESSORY: 3.3 KW ONBOARD CHARGER
TORQUE: 207 LB.-FT. (280 NM)
RANGE: 100 MILES (U.S. LA4 CYCLE)
ELECTRIC MOTOR SITE: YOKOHAMA, JAPAN
BATTERY/INVERTER ASSEMBLY: ZAMA, JAPAN
APPLICATION TESTED: '11 NISSAN LEAF
EPA CITY/HIGHWAY: 106/92 MPG EQUIVALENT