It would be easy to paint Nissan as late to the burgeoning U.S. green party, as the company essentially only counts the Altima Hybrid to sell among its alt-fuel offerings – and that sedan utilizes technology borrowed from Toyota, and it's only sold in a few states in small volumes. While that may be the case, Nissan says their near-term prospects are really quite different. While the company has admittedly been cautious in marketing alt-fuel vehicles in North America, they have been hard at work developing electric vehicles – as well as the advanced lithium-ion batteries to support them – since 1992. What's more, officials say they are now singularly well-placed to leapfrog "transitional" powertrain solutions like gas-electric hybrids in favor of genuine zero-emissions vehicles, and they are promising that their first pure-electric car will reach U.S. shores late next year.
That car, the Nissan Leaf shown here, is the reason we find ourselves in the company's brand-new Yokohama headquarters today. Designed as a four-to-five seat, front-drive C-segment hatchback, Nissan says the Leaf is not just for use as a specialty urban runabout, but rather, it was designed as an everyday vehicle – a "real car" whose 160-kilometer+ (100 mile) range meets the needs of 70% of the world's motorists. In the case of U.S. consumers, Nissan says that fully 80% of drivers travel less than 100km per day (62 miles), making the Leaf a solid fit for America's motoring majority, even taking into account power-sapping external factors like hilly terrain, accessory draw, and extreme temperatures.
We were afforded an advance look at the Leaf ahead of the car's unveiling today, and while it was a hands-off affair, we did have the chance to formulate some in-the-metal first impressions and take a deep dive into the car's technology. Click through to the jump to learn all about it.