Arriving on a snowy winter’s day in gray Vancouver, IEEE Spectrum journalism intern Anne-Marie Corley was nonetheless full of anticipation. She had jetted across the continent to be among the first journalists to drive Nissan’s highly anticipated pure-electric car, the Leaf. She was on assignment for our ”Top 10 Tech Cars” (in this issue), and she’d be in Vancouver for a grand total of 22 hours.
Then she got a look at the car. It wasn’t the sleek e-speedster that will go on sale later this year in Japan, the United States, and Europe, but rather a ”test mule,” with the guts of a Leaf and the body of a dowdy Versa. But that didn’t take away from the fun of driving it. A Nissan observer riding shotgun didn’t flinch as Corley stomped on the gas (whoops, electricity!) and slammed on the brakes while zipping around the test course. But when he saw her sneaking back to the track to try for a fourth spin, he greeted her with a shake of the head and said, ”Oh, you again?”
Having piloted a Toyota Prius across the southwestern United States and sped a pint-size Daimler Smart car down the German autobahn, Corley had felt the difference between those cars and regular sedans. So it surprised her that the Leaf ”felt just like driving a normal car.”
Unfortunately, because the car wasn’t complete on the inside, she didn’t get to try out the space-age controller that replaces the gearshift. And although she got to drive the car into the garage for its lunch break (sandwiches for press, electrons for the Leaf), no amount of finagling kept Nissan engineers from shooing her away before they plugged in the EV. ”It’s not the real one anyway,” they told her. So she’ll have to wait with the rest of us to take a peek at its charging hardware.
She did manage to squeeze in a few more test runs before being left behind by the press van. Then she got out of town just in time for her flight—and just before the snow hit.