A Joyride in the LEAF

The LEAF made a return to San Diego this month on its final lap towards the sales launch as Nissan’s first mass-market EV. In 2009, I attended the EV prototype tour as well as the LEAF’s first major foray (22-city tour) into the public. Since then, the momentum has turned into a tangible up-swing as more than 16,000 customers have made reservations online. I’m proud to report that I finally got a chance to drive the real deal, after following our EV on its adventures for over a year. Shout out to PR guru Tim Gallagher who made it all possible for me and co-worker Ken Lee, a designer at Nissan Design America, to spend some quality time with the LEAF!

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Ken Lee & Ann Ngo, Nissan Design employees, get up-close and personal with LEAF

Before we actually got to drive the LEAF, I snuck into some media events Nissan hosted over a couple days. As usual, the LEAF team had a packed schedule with special media guests and VIPs who were significant to San Diego’s partnership with Nissan. Mark Perry and Tracy Woodard were on hand again to tout the features and final details of our EV to the likes of a US senator, San Diego’s mayor, local corporate Chiefs, as well as local and national press, like Wired Magazine. A select few had the opportunity to drive the vehicle on a short loop in San Diego, and the consensus was of electric excitement by all.

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Mark Perry shows off the VC lot LEAF to Edmunds.com and North County Times press

Finally, it was our turn. After patiently waiting until the end of the day, Big Tim, or Timbo, gave us the signal that we could check out the LEAF en route to a close-by photo shoot. We actually got to spend more time than we expected with it, capturing some photos and video of our experience.

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Ken and I were ecstatic that Timbo let us drive the LEAf on its way to a photo shoot

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Joyride sanctioned by Tim Gallagher, Corp Comm, who deserves a LEAF of his own!

Here are some thoughts from Ken after the drive:

  • Initially I was skeptical about the LEAF’s design from pictures, but in person the car looks great.  It looks cheerful, upbeat, and futuristic.  Just enough EV cues to separate it from conventional cars.
  • Clever details such as the headlamp fins that guide the airflow around the car are fun to look at and they add to the appeal of the car.
  • Interior feels extremely spacious, relaxed, and modern. 
  • The information display/ trip computer was very entertaining.  It instantaneously recalculates the driving range in real time, challenging us to constantly improve the range with our driving techniques. 
  • The driving experience is natural and pleasant, with a seamless flow of power yet quieter than any car I’ve driven.  Feels more like being on a high speed bullet train than in a conventional car.

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LEAF’s information display was interactive and fun, serving up data & maps real-time

Thanks to a concerted effort by Nissan’s partners and the government for infrastructure, this signals a shift to an era of EVs with real staying power. After my total LEAF experience, I’m still convinced that it would be a great vehicle and would fit perfectly into my life. The overall concept and execution is great; the styling is iconic yet quirky; the design is thoughtful. The LEAF surprises with its quiet quickness and it’s a real performer… and all eyes are now focused on how it will perform in the market. Based on my first-hand experience and glowing reviews by the media, LEAF will make an impactful entrance and be a keystone to Nissan’s mission of providing “innovation for all”.

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NDA blogger Ann Ngo hopes to be one of the first Nissan employees to lease a LEAF!

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