The new Nissan Leaf had a big presence at CES.  My experience with the Leaf started at a kick-off party at the Palms.  My husband and I were treated to some great food and drinks while learning about the very cool, 100% electric, zero-percent tail pipe emission (it doesn’t even have a tailpipe), 100-mile drive range, Nissan Leaf.   Its made of recycled and recyclable materials, including its seats which are made of PVC bottles.  Nissan is touting the Leaf as the world’s first affordable, all electric vehicle available on the  mass market.  It was available in select markets (like San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, Phoenix, Tucson, Portland and Tennessee) in December of 2010 and will spread to other markets throughout this year.

I also had the opportunity to test drive the Leaf .  I’ve never driven an electric car before, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  From the outside, it looks like a regular car, not like many of the tiny electric vehicles you see on the road. It’s a 5 door hatchback and would easily and comfortable fit 4-5 people with plenty of cargo room.  The interior’s welcoming atmosphere starts with a wide, high tech instrument panel design.  The flat panel center includes a color monitor for the standard navigation system, available RearView Monitor and control of the audio and climate systems.  The display also provides access to the CARWINGS telematics system, which is connected to a global data center.  Through CARWINGS, Nissan LEAF drivers are able to use mobile phones to turn on air conditioning and set charging functions remotely, even when the vehicle is powered down.  The system also displays “reachable area,” as well as showing a selection of nearby charging stations.  An on-board remote-controlled timer can also be programmed to recharge the batteries.

I found the Leaf was fun to drive.   It has 100 mile of driving range and a top speed of 90 mph.  It had a quick and powerful acceleration.  It steers, brakes and handles like a real car.  It is so quiet, I wasn’t sure if it was on or off after I engaged the push button start.

But especially appealing is the cost of powering the Nissan Leaf.  It is substantially lower than an hybrid, about $2.64 for every 100 miles.  It charges just as your cellphone would.  By plugging in to your 3.3kW home charging station, you can have  full charge overnight, in just 8 hours.  There are also increasing amounts of public charging stations across the United States.

For more information on the Leaf, visit:  http://www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car