Nissan Leaf Rolls Out In Chicago A Year Early

Nissan's Leaf electric car has been hitting the market slowly, as the company has chosen a staggered roll out across the country. Well, Nissan has accelerated that timetable, at least in Chicago.

The car wasn't supposed to hit our market for another year or so, but thanks to consumer demand and government initiatives, Nissan has chosen to bring the Leaf to the Chicago market this fall.

The 107-horsepower all-electric Leaf offers a range of about 100 miles, and it takes about eight hours to charge on a special 220-volt charger (up to 20 hours on 110 volts) and uplevel SL models (SV represents the lower trim) offer a quick charger that can get the battery to about 80 percent in 30 minutes, using 440 volts.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn was on hand for the announcement, talking about the installation of 280 charging stations throughout the area (money, in the form of a cool $1 million, will come from the Illinois Jobs Now! program, along with another million from the U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Cities program on a grant secured by the City of Chicago, according to the governor's office). Already, 40 Level 2 charging stations are in place, and of the 280, 73 will be quick-charge stations, while the remainder will be Level 2 stations. The stations will be installed in parking garages, grocery-store parking lots, tollway oases, and other public areas.

Quinn also talked about an electric highway that would run from Chicago to Springfield, without getting into specifics of what he meant. We'd assume he means dedicated electric-vehicle lanes, but without clarification, he could mean an electrified highway, we suppose.

All kidding aside, the governor was effusive in his praise for the area's support of electric vehicles--"We have such a good infrastructure for electric vehicles," he said. He also said that increased use of electric vehicles would bring jobs to the state, although he wasn't clear how (the only concrete example being the state's potential to be the home of plants building batteries) and that Abraham Lincoln, himself a technology aficionado, would be proud of his adopted state.

Nissan's announcement came ahead of today's opening of a public ride-and-drive event for the Leaf, which will be held just east of the Field Museum and runs through the weekend (the redesigned 2012 Nissan Versa sedan is on display, as well). Quinn took note of the iconic downtown setting, saying: "Looking out at Lake Michigan, [consumers are] going to see the future."



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