Wednesday, March 31, 2010

01/21/2010: Nissan's all-electric Leaf creates buzz among fans during Nashville stopover

Dan Easter is thinking about putting an electric car in his garage soon: Nissan's new Leaf.
A Green Hills resident, Easter was one of the first in Nashville to see the Leaf as it arrived in town on a three-day stopover during a national tour designed to drum up interest among potential buyers for what the carmaker hopes are brisk first-year sales. The Leaf — likely to sell for $15,000 to $20,000 — goes on sale in December in Tennessee and a few other markets before a broader national rollout in 2012.

"I went to see it in front of the Sommet Center, and I was quite impressed," said Easter, 50, director of procurement for Lipscomb University. "I'm eager to find out more about it and get a chance to drive it."

Nissan invited him to see the car after he became one of about 35,000 "hand-raisers" who signed up on the company's Web site to receive e-mail updates about the electric car. It's designed to operate on an advanced lithium-ion battery pack that will give the Leaf a maximum range of about 100 miles between charges.

From that initial group of interested fans of the vehicle, Nissan hopes to identify a sizable group who might buy the Leaf, the first mass-produced all-electric car to be offered by any automaker.

"I am definitely interested, although it would be a second vehicle for local use," Easter said of possibly putting a Leaf in his garage. "I have family in Virginia, and I don't think it would be practical to try to go that far in it."

On Wednesday, dealers, news media and government officials got to see the Leaf at Nissan's Cool Springs headquarters, and some brief test drives were offered — although not to the general public. Wednesday was the final day of the three-day viewing event here.

Those will come later when Nissan asks the hand-raisers' group whether they want to take the next step and make reservations to buy one. That's likely to start in April, said Mark Perry, vice president for product development at Nissan North America.

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