Take A Spin In An Electric Car

Ira Flatow took Nissan's new electric-powered Leaf for a drive around New York City. This car runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery — no oil or gas — and with a new battery, the car can go between 60 and 130 miles on a charge. The car is set to go into production in the next few months, with deliveries in December.

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IRA FLATOW, host:

Up next, Flora Lichtman is here with our video pick of the week, and we have a special treat this week, right, Flora?

FLORA LICHTMAN : It is a special treat. I think this is the kind of treat that SCIENCE FRIDAY listeners have probably been waiting for for a long time. The pick of the week this week is you, Ira.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: You are the pick of the week.

FLATOW: Drawn and quartered.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: So we went out...

FLATOW: We went on the roads of New York.

LICHTMAN: We went on the roads of New York in Nissan's new plug-in electric vehicle, the Leaf.

FLATOW: The Leaf. And this is not a hybrid. This is totally plug-in.

LICHTMAN: One hundred percent electric. And you drove.

FLATOW: I drove it.

LICHTMAN: So if you want to get in the passenger seat - if you've been - you know, you've listened to Ira in the car all these years and now you can actually be in the car with Ira.

FLATOW: Yeah. Flora took our cameras out on to the streets of New York and drove around Central Park, up and around in the Nissan Leaf. And I own a Prius - everybody knows that - and I tried to compare it to that.

LICHTMAN: Yeah. So what did you think actually?

FLATOW: I thought it was quiet nice. I mean, it handled very well. It was quiet. And if you want to see that, our little trip around, you can go to sciencefriday.com where your video is up there.

LICHTMAN: Let's - so how did the acceleration feel to you? I think people are so worried that electric cars aren't going to be as powerful or maybe they won't feel as sturdy.

FLATOW: You know, electric motors accelerate, I think, faster than gasoline actually.

LICHTMAN: Really?

FLATOW: You step on - I've even said it in the video. I made the mistake of saying: I step on the gas. Well, there is no gas.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: Yeah, it's true though. There is going to have to be a switch, right?

FLATOW: We have to find a different word. Step on the pedal, step on the electrons. And the immediate acceleration, you know, we who use subways and live on subways, we always feel that, you know, whoa, it's moving very quickly immediately. That's what happens. But this is very smooth. It was very sturdy. And I thought it was, you know, a great ride.

LICHTMAN: And the quietness was really noticeable. It's funny, you know, doing video every week, I hear the background noise. And in this car, you heard nothing. You turned on the car and you couldnt hear any difference.

FLATOW: No, the car - you know, the car is sitting there and you say, well, turn it on and you push the button, it's on.

LICHTMAN: You just can't hear that.

FLATOW: Can't hear it. And people were worried - I know that people you talked to saying, well, should they put an artificial engine sound in it so on the streets people will hear you coming. Well, you know, in New York, it doesn't matter whether - how much noise you would put in that car.

LICHTMAN: It would have to be very loud to be heard over everything else.

FLATOW: Yeah. But what's interesting is, you know, as you show in the video, there are plugs. You just plug it in and it charges. It can charge rapidly or...

LICHTMAN: Yeah.

FLATOW: ...overnight.

LICHTMAN: That was one of the things that I thought was really interesting about the car is showing - it's really like an outlet...

FLATOW: Right.

LICHTMAN: ...just in the front of the grill. And there's the two sizes, and one is the - I think it's 240 volts. It's like your electric dryer...

FLATOW: Mm-hmm.

LICHTMAN: ...is what Mark Perry, who's the product manager, described it as. And it charges up really fast. Eighty percent of the charge in 30 minutes...

FLATOW: Yeah.

LICHTMAN:...if you have this sort of special ...

FLATOW: That special charger. And for people who are going to have these - and I know there are 30 of them, he was telling me, that are running around in test phases - you could have a special built in to your garage, that special rapid charger. And, you know, of course, since it gets 100 miles on a charge, most people are not going to need to go home and recharge it during the day.

LICHTMAN: Well, this is an interesting thing. I was looking on the Leaf materials, and it sounds like depending on - and we saw this, too, driving -depending on the climate control and that kind of stuff, you can get only 60 miles...

FLATOW: Yeah.

LICHTMAN: ... you know, depending on the conditions.

FLATOW: If it's cold outside, you need that heater.

LICHTMAN: Right.

FLATOW: If it's hot, you need the air conditioner.

LICHTMAN: Right.

FLATOW: Now this may sound like a commercial for the Leaf. It's not. We want to drive all the plug-ins when they come in.

LICHTMAN: Yeah.

FLATOW: I know that China has one. And this one is not available immediately, is it? You have to wait.

LICHTMAN: No, you have to wait. You have to have - first of all, I think there are no new reservations for this car. So even if you fell in love with it, it would be hard to get it. And I think deliveries begin in December. So it's not even actually on the roads yet.

FLATOW: And it's over $30,000 for the car, but you get an incredible tax break on this and a refund, right?

LICHTMAN: Yeah. And there was actually an article on today's Times just about all of these refunds you get.

FLATOW: Yeah. If you get the refund for like $7,500 and if you have a state tax, that gets cancelled, so you can get almost $10,000...

LICHTMAN: Yeah.

FLATOW: ...return on the car. And I'm just hoping it opens up the new era of plug-ins because we all like to have more plug-ins, I think. And I'd love to take some more rides in them.

LICHTMAN: And I think we'd like to make more videos of it. So one special shoutout because this video, you know, the real treat of this video is some music that was put together by John Boswell of the Symphony of Science. And you may be one of the millions of people who have seen his handiwork in the Carl Sagan Auto-Tune video.

FLATOW: And that's how we'll go out today.

(Soundbite of video, "No-Grease Lightning")

FLATOW: (Singing) You get some overhead lifters and some four-barrel-quads, oh yeah.

FLATOW: That's me.

LICHTMAN: Yeah.

FLATOW: Is that me?

LICHTMAN: That's you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Well, I'll read the credits over it.

I'm Ira Flatow, in New York.

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