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Nissan Leaf: Electric hatch coming to Australia in 2012

Nissan has just unveiled its long mooted electric car, the Leaf, and it will be coming to Australia some time in 2012.

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Derek Fung
Derek loves nothing more than punching a remote location into a GPS, queuing up some music and heading out on a long drive, so it's a good thing he's in charge of CNET Australia's Car Tech channel.
Derek Fung
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All electric

Nissan has just unveiled its long mooted electric car, the Leaf, and it will be coming to Australia some time in 2012.

Update: we've now added shots of the interior.

Under the bonnet, the Leaf has an electric engine capable of producing 80kW of power and 280Nm of torque; the max speed is 140km/h.

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Juice me up

The lithium-ion batteries located underneath the seats and floor have a total capacity of 24kWh, and should provide sufficient juice for up to 160km of travel.

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Light the way

We've noted before that LED headlights are all the rage because designers can meld them into all kinds of funky and interesting shapes. There's also an added side benefit in that they require less energy to run — Nissan quotes a 10 per cent power saving compared to conventional lamps.

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Pricing

Nissan promises that the Leaf will be priced against competitors luxury models in the Golf/Corolla class — say, AU$30-40k — although exact specs and dollar figures will only be released closer to sale. Quite how Nissan is planning to make its electric car that price competitive hasn't been spelt out yet. Current lithium-ion electric cars are pricey beasts, such as the Mazda 2-based evMe which retails for AU$70k.

If we were to take an educated guess, however, we'd wager that the Leaf is the battery swappable electric car that Better Place and Nissan have been collaborating on. As such, Leaf purchasers would own the car, while the battery pack would remain the property of Better Place. Leaf owners would then pay a monthly kilometre-based fee to recharge the batteries from home or work, or swap them out at swap stations. For more information about how this scheme could work, check out our interview with Better Place Australia CEO Evan Thornley.

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ET phone home

The instrument pod features a split-level display, similar to the one found on the Honda Civic, and there's a tree gauge (left-most dial on the top display) that will presumably show drivers how greenly they're driving. Drivers will be able to connect remotely to their cars and set air-conditioning and recharging patterns; there will also be a programmable timer for the car's recharging functions.

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Made in Japan

The Leaf will go on sale in 2010 in Japan, Europe and North America; Australians will have to wait for 2012. The first Leafs will come out of Japan, although Nissan is planning on producing the car in the USA too.

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Haven't I seen you before?

A week or two back the company released official photos of its electric car during development (above). Being a Corolla/Golf competitor it's clear to see the Leaf's lineage — the quite unattractive Tiida has been transformed into, well, let's just say it's not the Megan Fox of the automotive world and leave it at that.

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The essence of bright is light

The interior looks brighter and better made than the rather drab Tiida. Nissan also promises a new infotainment system that will display, presumably on the sat nav's map, a radar highlighting the car's current maximum range, as well as any charging stations within that range.

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Begin transmission

The transmission pod in the Leaf's centre console only offers a choice of park, neutral, reverse and drive/engine braking.

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Charge me up buttercup

The Leaf's charging points are located underneath a flap where the grille would normally be. Using a multi-phase quick charger (left), an 80 per cent charge can be achieved in 30 minutes. From a normal 200V outlet (right), though, a full charge would require about eight hours.

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Charging lights

Plug the Leaf into the grid and large lights on the dashboard will inform the driver that the car is charging and how much charge the car has.

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