Driving a New Electric Car -- in NYC, No Less

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Brian Thompson turns over a new Leaf -- Nissan's new gas-free vehicle.

    On the eve of  the first mass-produced electric cars to ever go on sale, Nissan gave reporters test drives of their brand new Leaf all-electric sedan.

    Acceleration? Check.

    Quiet? Check.

    Car-like ride? Check.

    Gas? No.

    And we'll leave it up to the auto experts to parse the more technical stuff. But let's just say right off the bat: It feels like you're driving a car.

    But for the biggest news out of this tour, let's talk price.

    I specifically asked Mark Perry, Nissan's Director of Product Planning and Advanced Technology Strategy if, once sales reach a critical mass of tens of thousands or more here in the U.S., the price will come down (it is advertised at $32,780 base price, but with a federal tax credit of $7500 that comes out to $25,280 for car buyers).

    Perry told NBCNewYork "What we have to do is be prepared for that $7500 going away, so as a consumer it'll look the same."

    In other words, with critical mass after the tax credit disappears, Nissan can bring its cost down from $32,780 but the charge to buyers will still be $25,000 and change.

    So the good news is that consumers in a couple of years or so will be able to get Nissan's electric Leaf at just over $25,000 with no strings attached(as in the hassle of getting a federal tax credit). The bad news, Perry doesn't expect it to go any lower than that.

    But by then there will be plenty of competition as just about every major manufacturer has plans to jump on the EV bandwagon over the next two of three years.

    GM actually led the way with its Volt (unlike the Leaf, it has a gas generator on board to make more electricity when the original charge is drained).

    The Volt is expected to beat the Leaf to market by just a few weeks.

    The Leaf won't be available in the New York area until the Fall of 2011, according to Perry(the Volt will go on sale right away in New York and New Jersey).

    But by the time it comes, he said there will be at least 255 public charging stations in New York to deal with the issue of "Range Anxiety."  That's the fear of being stranded with no power left in your battery.

    But Perry counters that  "95 percent of the population of the U.S. drives less than 100 miles a day," and of course the range of the Leaf is advertised at 100 miles(less though in extreme cold or heat).

    So how long to recharge? Twenty hours with household 110v, eight hours with a 220v charger (like for your washing machine), and half an hour for an 80 percent charge with a 440v fast charger.

    "The average fast food restaurant stay is 24 minutes," said Perry, smiling.

    Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY