From the return to the essence of automotive enthusiasm to a uniquely silent and intriguing experience. A few days before the Toyota GT86 controlled skidding festival at Haras Tuiuti Proving Ground, I spent an entire afternoon in Rio de Janeiro with the 100% electric Nissan Leaf – the best-selling vehicle in this category in the world with more than 170 thousand units Delivered since its launch in Japan and the USA in December 2010. It is more than the combined sales of the Volt and Prius hybrids combined and at the end of last year the Carwings telemetry system computed the 1 billion kilometer Of all these Leaf.
“What does this have to do with me?” I know that you, the expensive gearhead fan of shuffled slow gears and the scent of gasoline podium burned in the air, wonders. I would. If we were talking about hybrids, I’d say nothing. But when it comes to 100% electric vehicles, my dear, we are talking about such a particular sensory experience that you need to live before you push judgment. If you are in Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo, you can do it any time you want (see more at the end of the text).
Regardless of the dolphins, Hollywood actors and politicians interested in image, the animal offers a very different interaction as a machine – so interesting that it made me think of the obvious: one does not necessarily exclude the other, and perhaps the best flavor comes from the coexistence Of these opposite universes in the same garage, since both experiences are more valued. So before we talk about the vehicle itself, you should check my dynamic impressions on board.
Like the Tesla Model S, the Nissan Leaf uses a platform and a body developed exclusively for it. The demands of a 100% electric vehicle are different from that of a hybrid: the lithium-ion battery – in the case of the Leaf, 48 modules with four cells each, totaling 192 air-cooled prismatic cells – becomes the only source of Energy and therefore takes up a lot of space and has a large mass (here, 290 kg). Positioning it as low as possible is essential to avoid damaging the dynamics: here the modules are sandwiched on a double floor below the floor of the passenger compartment but above the outer floor.
Note how they are between the axles, which protects them best in case of an accident, helps reduce polar inertia (improves reactions in changing directions) and helps in weight distribution: although weighing 1,450 kg – mass of an average sedan – the center of gravity is extremely low and the weight distribution on the axles is worthy of a sports car: 56% on the front axle, 44% on the rear axle.
It is also worth remembering that the battery is removable, allowing not only the replacement at the end of its useful life (in the US, Nissan offers a warranty of eight years or 100,000 miles and estimates the service life of the component in more than ten Years), but also technological improvements in the units that allow the increase of the autonomy of the vehicle, for example. It is currently estimated at 160 km in almost platonic conditions – in practice, the average reported by drivers has been in the 90 km range, more than enough for everyday use by most people (read about recharging systems later) .
Another particular demand of electric vehicles arises from their sepulchral silence. When you accelerate the Leaf, the only operating noise you hear is an almost inaudible buzzing, which means that the reverberation of tire rolling on the ground, wind noise and even peripherals like the windshield wiper and The fan is sensorially overrated – more or less like when a person talks inside a library.
Based on this, Nissan had to employ acoustic windshield, to fit in the cabin insulation, to choose the tires with care (in this case, Bridgestone Ecopia 205/55 R16), redesign the fan and the wiper motor and draw very carefully The body has a sealed floor (to reduce drag and wind noise), the lenses of the LED headlamps have gained the function of aerodynamic drains to clean the flow of the side mirrors and the rear has been designed to avoid as much as possible the detachment Of flow layer, one of the main sources of aerodynamic drag.
With all that, its coefficient is 0.28, equal to that of the small and slender Toyota GT8 coupe. Nothing, not bad – but the Leaf could have less cool design, do not you think? It ends up following a similar concept to the Prius – vehicle-gadget with futuristic intentions – when there is room and demand to flirt with provocative and fleshy flavors, as the Tesla Model S showed.
The panel is typical of a Japanese compact. Discounting the digital cluster in two planes (see details below) and the exotic transmission selector and what you have is a rather conservative cabin: relatively flat panel (made of 100% recycled plastics) central console and traditional seats up to too. Steering ergonomics are typical of a medium hatch made for the general public, with a rather high hip point (remember the battery modules on the floor), soft but communicative drives, and good visibility. The cabin space is very good and caters to four adults with 1.80 m in tranquility. The fifth passenger would get a little tight in the middle.
Manufactured in Yokohama (the battery and the inverter are manufactured in Zama), the AC electric motor – alternating current – three-phase synchronous has an external appearance very similar to that of a gasoline driven assembly. His data even reminds us of a downsized turbine: 28.5 mkgf of torque (280 Nm) and 107 cv (80 kW) – progressive but instantaneous. Tread 100% on the right pedal, at any speed, and bam! You will have exactly this force applied to the wheels.
But just a quick look at the infographic below to conclude that the resemblance is really only the cover and the silhouette. In fact, Leaf’s engine is downstairs (where the crankshaft and crankcase of a gasoline engine would be), and everything around it is a modular assembly with a series of components integrated in series.
At the top, the PDM (power distribution module) integrates the charger (the plug sits well on the nose of the Leaf, see photo below), the DC / DC voltage converter and the junction box, which distributes the voltage and has A particularly important function: to block the current in case of anomalies, acting as a circuit breaker. Just below, we have the current inverter, which converts it from continuous to alternating at times of force demand of the motor, but which also does the reverse role during decelerations, which allows recharging of the batteries.
The KERS effect (the transition from consumption to energy recharge occurs on the fifth ball of the above dial) arises when the accelerator is not depressed but the vehicle is moving (rolling without acceleration, braking) at any speed above 3 km / H. The inertia of the vehicle rotates the tires, which drives the transmission and causes the engine rotor to rotate and generate current, which flows in the opposite hand by the inverter, recharging the batteries.
Pro driver the effect is similar to the engine brake – including the deceleration force – but the difference is that you gain autonomy. Yes, after descending a saw you will have more energy available than at the beginning of the route, and yes, it is worth rethinking the use of the accelerator when you see the traffic in the front or the signal closing. So it’s not just silence and torque: the act of driving turns a slightly different game into an electric.
The Leaf also has a small solar panel on the back cover, helping the autonomy and operation of peripherals such as air conditioning and the sound system – out-of-the-way, among other options, Nissan offers a Bose system with Seven speakers, plus leather seats and 17 “wheels.
Among the various charging systems offered, the three most common are the portable system (120 V, photo of the high), the domestic (220 V, which fully recharges a zero battery in six hours – ie, get home and plug the Boy in access of the orange cover above) and the fast recharging posts (connector being plugged into the photos above), able to recharge 80% of the battery in just 20 minutes. As the batteries charge, sequential lights at the top of the panel indicate the status of the recharge, almost like a giant gadget.
In Japan, there are currently 1,600 fast refueling stations (twice as much as in 2012) and the government has approved an investment of 120 million dollars to expand this infrastructure, aiming to reach 5,000 points five years from now. There is also the Vehicle-to-Home project where Leaf’s batteries can be integrated into the house, so Nissan supplies power in certain situations (power failure, peak consumption in the neighborhood) and is recharged on demand Softens
The deafness of Brazil
“Other” is the name of the tax category in which vehicles such as Leaf and hybrids are framed in Brazil, resulting in higher costs than even some luxury vehicles. Today, this Nissan is absolutely unviable here: it would cost almost 200 thousand reais. Outside, subsidies, tax credits, and property tax reductions and maintenance fees are not uncommon in the electric and hybrid world: in the US, for example, these incentive policies drive the price of the Nissan Leaf plummeting from $ 29,010 to US $ 21,510, almost 35% off. In Norway, electric vehicles do not pay tolls, public parking lots and can still run on bus lanes.
Would I be mistaken if I said that our tax mentality is protectionist, retrograde and lazy, always guided by the controlling gain through taxes and bureaucracies and not by the dynamic incentive of productivity and development of the industry? If this even affects the bicycle industry, I would say that I am not at all wrong …
Around here, Nissan brought some Leaf units both for test-drives and a rather interesting taxi program, which just turned two years old: there are 15 taxi drivers selected in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro who, together, already Nearly a million miles. Maintenance is done every 10,000 kilometers, subsidized by the brand itself. As the engine is very simple, the costs are extremely low and basically focus on suspension and brakes.
A partnership with the city of Rio de Janeiro and with BR Distribuidora, consolidated through a Memorandum of Understanding signed in June 2012, resulted in the development of a small refueling infrastructure in the city – fast loading points at two BR stations. Petrobras also had a Leaf unit for testing. In São Paulo, the partnership was signed with the city hall, Eletropaulo and Paulista Association of Taxi Drivers (Adetaxi), and there are a total of fifteen recharging points for taxi drivers (when comparing, it is important to remember the geography of cities).
What Nissan intends with this program is to show the government the benefits of a policy to encourage electric vehicles. By making the Leaf available as a taxi, anyone can have the silent experience of tasting it, which ultimately generates buzz on the basis of word of mouth, but more than that, shows that its introduction and use are perfectly feasible in Brazil . The attempt was made and the brand not only studies renewing the program – something interesting considering the proximity of the Olympics – as it even commented on the possibility of producing it in Brazil, but the federal government so far has not signaled any rapprochement.