Nissan's Mark Perry on the Arrival of the Leaf (Podcast)



Amid a media flurry starring a displaced polar bear and an easy-breathing Lance Armstrong, Nissan has become the unlikely leader as it delivers a mass-produced, affordable electric car. The Leaf is now arriving in the driveways of eager customers, and the face of the auto industry will never be the same. Mark Perry, Nissan's Director of Product Planning and Advanced Technology, walks us through the basic stats of the car, crunches the numbers on a "well-to-wheels" energy analysis, and discusses the Leaf's rivalry with the Chevy Volt.

A great listen for anyone thinking about making the switch from oil to electrons.

(For my five-part review of the Leaf, visit MSN.com's Exhaust Notes)

Full text after the jump.TreeHugger: What does Director of Product Planning and Advanced Technology mean? Do you get to play with all the cool technology before anybody else?

Mark Perry: That's the fun part of the job, you're right. I sit between the engineers and the consumer. So the engineers tell us what we might be able to do, and then consumers say what they want in the marketplace. My job is to interpret both and then take what the engineers and designers have been thinking about help guide it to market.

TH: Can you give us a quick breakdown of the basics for the Leaf? What it costs, how far it goes, all those specs that a prospective consumer would want to know?

Perry: We're dealing with a five-passenger compact car. The EPA does call us a mid-size, but most people would put it in the same size class as a Nissan Sentra or even a Focus, that size of vehicle. We're actually a little bit larger than a Prius. It's a five-passenger sedan that goes 100 miles on a single charge. You have all the amenities that people would expect.

It's funny, sometimes I get the question, "Does it have a heater? Does it have a stereo system?" And I have to stop myself and slow down and say, "Well, people have those questions because they don't know what was sacrificed." The whole purpose and the whole concept behind the Leaf when we brought it through development was that it would be a real car. I mean, time and time again, people drive it, and the first thing they step out of it and say, "Well, that's kind of normal."

And for us, that's probably the single strongest kind of endorsement that we can get from folks. Because we've really worked hard to make this as normal a driving experience as we can. But with the big change being, you're sitting on a battery pack, and you don't have any emissions whatsoever. Not a drop of gas or a drop of oil touch this car at all, and we didn't even bother with a tailpipe.

So it's a five-passenger sedan with 100 miles of range, and it's got a 95 mph top speed. It's got a stereo system. It's got navigation. Standard Bluetooth. Again, a very easy car to use every day. It costs about $33,000 before the tax credits but there's a $7,500 tax credit from the federal government. And then, depending on where you are, the state incentives range from a high of about a $5,000 rebate in about four different states, and up and down the whole range.

TH: So is that California with the $5,000 rebate?

Perry: Yeah, California, Georgia. Hawaii's at $4,500. Colorado's at $6,000. Again, it all depends locally.

TH: That's on top of the $7,500 from the federal government?

Perry: That's correct. And then you go into parts of California hwere some air-quality-management districts add additional incentives on top of the state rebate. And we even have some employers, Sony Pictures and Fox in California, that are adding another $3,000 as an incentive for their employees to drive zero-emissions. So when you start adding it up, $7,500 from the feds, $5,000 from California, another three from a potential employer, the car gets down below $20,000 very quickly.

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