Not that long ago, electric-powered vehicles were little more than rolling science experiments. Everybody had one, but no one seemed to be serious about them. Not anymore. With gas prices spiraling ever upward and governments around the globe pressing automakers for more efficient lineups, seemingly every car company on the planet is breaking their legs jumping on the EV bandwagon. Nissan
is the first major automaker to deliver the juice in the form of the Nissan
Leaf, a mass-market, all-electric vehicle you'll be able to buy from your local Nissan
dealer soon. (The first 2011 Leafs hit customer garages just before the close of 2010.) It's a quirky little hatch, but Nissan
essentially delivered what it promised, and we've found the Leaf to be a surprisingly normal driving experience, range anxiety aside. It will soon have company. Other major automakers will be trickling EVs onto the market this year -- namely the Mitsubishi I
-MiEV and Smart Fortwo
Electric Drive -- but it's the soon-to-arrive 2013 Focus Electric hatchback that will no doubt serve as the Leaf's first true foil.
Since we won't be able to drive the Focus Electric until closer to its late-2011 on-sale date, we've decided see how the two cars stack up on paper. Let the opening round of the Kilowatt Wars begin.
The Leaf is powered by an 80-kilowatt AC electric motor capable of producing 107 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, routed to the front wheels via a single-speed transmission. During a test drive, we saw an indicated top speed of 95 mph -- 5 mph faster than Nissan
claimed -- and an approximate zero-to-60 mph time of 10 seconds. The Focus Electric gets its motivation from a 100-kilowatt AC electric motor that produces 123 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. Ford
reports a top speed of 84 mph and has not announced a zero-to-60 time yet, though we expect it will be in the same ballpark.
Advantage: Nissan. What it lacks in horsepower, the Leaf makes up in torque and top speed.