By G. Michael Dobbs
WEST SPRINGFIELD The car I drove down Riverdale Street last week was responsive with quick pick up and fine handling.
It was also all electric.
The Nissan Leaf, introduced in this area by Jerry Rome Nissan, seems like something out of science fiction. Although it looks like a stylish sedan with a large back seat and a hatchback trunk, even a cursory glance across the dashboard reveals something quite different.
Juan Figueroa, one of the two sales consultants at the dealership trained to sell the Leaf, said the car has an average range of 100 miles with a top-speed of 90 miles per hour. A leaf-shaped lit graph on the dashboard tells the driver how efficiently he or she is driving. Figueroa explained that if a driver turns off heating or cooling, for instance, the battery’s charge could be extended. Driving the speed limit also helps.
With a charging station installed in a driver’s home, the Leaf can be fully charged in eight hours. Using ordinary household current will take longer, Figueroa added. Electric prices being subject to change, he said a complete charge could cost between $2 to $3 for those 100 miles of travel.
If a driver’s commute or daily use of a car is less than 100 miles, the Leaf’s range puts an owner “in a good position,” Figueroa said.
Because it is all electric, no emissions are generated. The car’s technology also produces little to no noise, and Figueroa explained Nissan engineers actually built some noise into the car so drivers could hear it coming.
Hands-free Bluetooth telephone service, a GPS, and XM Satellite radio are all part of the package.
Although batteries are affected by cold, Figueroa said the leaf was engineered with climates like New England in mind. Once the temperature drops to a certain level, a battery warmer kicks in to preserve the battery’s charge.
The price for this new technology? There are two trim models of the car and the prices are $35,200 and $37,250. Leasing is available and there is a $7,500 tax credit for those who purchase the car.
The Chevy Volt is also an electric car, but unlike the Leaf it has a combustion engine that generates electricity and a battery with a 35 mile range, according to its website. Its initial price point is $31,645.
Figueroa believes the biggest difference is the reputation of quality Nissan has built for its vehicles.
He said the new car has generated a lot of interest and explained the purchase process set up by Nissan is just as radical as the car itself. Interested buyers can take the standard test drive, but that is where the traditions end.
To buy a Leaf, a consumer must order it through the Nissan Leaf website, (www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car) for which there is a link on the Jerry Rome website (www.jerryromenissan.com). A reservation for a car must be made with a fee of $99. The customer’s home is assessed for installation of a charging station, which is optional, since the car can be charged with standard current.
The customer then can specify color and some options and see a final price. The car is then built in Japan and shipped to the dealership. The entire process takes between two and three months.
Figueroa called the different sales process a “virgin process for consumers and us.”
As of this writing, there have been plenty of curious people looking at the car, he said, but no sales as yet. He believes the initial buyers will be people who “want to make a statement” about the environment.
Figueroa’s suggestion, though, is not to buy the car, but to lease it as in three years at the end of the lease the technology for the electric car will have undoubtedly improved.
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