The Nissan Leaf electric vehicle is set to be released in a few months, with Nissan pushing it ahead of their original 2011 release date, and even ahead of the official release of the Chevy Volt in November. Some industry insiders are wondering whether Nissan has cut a few corners in order to get the Leaf to market – unlike the Tesla Roadster or the Chevy Volt, the Leaf does not have an active thermal management system for its lithium ion battery pack.
Maintaining the temperature of lithium ion batteries within an acceptable range is important in order to preserve battery life. Instead of an active cooling system, the Leaf uses a simple fan to push air through the battery pack. However, Nissan has stated that, “We’ve gone on the record saying that the pack has a 70 to 80 percent capacity after 10 years.”
In addition to the battery life, there are also concerns about the Leaf’s 100-mile driving range being overly optimistic. The Leaf is also an all-electric vehicle, without any kind of range-extending on-board generator, unlike the Volt or hybrids like the Toyota Prius. Even if the Leaf’s range is optimistic, most drivers’ average daily driving distance figures are well below 100 miles, so this may not be a problem in most instances.
One option that may be available to Leaf buyers is to lease instead of buying, though it is unclear whether the battery will be able to be leased separately or not. Although the company is taking pre-orders, the final price for the vehicle has not yet been announced, but it is expected to be in the range of $25,000 to $35,000.