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Long Term

2011 Nissan Leaf: Happy Birthday to Leaf

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author photo by Joni Gray

Nissan is celebrating the birth of its Leaf EV and I'm celebrating Hal's birthday too. An online video spot called "Singing Sockets" was released this week featuring the varied voices of 140V plugs singing a rousing "Happy Birthday" was released this week to commemorate the event.

And why not celebrate? In its first short year, the Nissan Leaf has achieved many impressive milestones. Looking back, I'd say it qualifies as a smashing success.

USA Sales Domination

Over a year ago, Nissan set out to see how many people would sign up and invest $99 to reserve a Nissan Leaf EV and before the cars came off the assembly line in Japan, the US market had committed to nearly 20,000. Nissan has since reported that 17,000 Leafs have been sold globally, with the US market dominating any other one country at 9,000 units to date. I'm proud to say more than half (60%) of those US units were sold in California - my home state.

Available in 30 States - 20 more to go…

When the Leaf launched last year, you could only order them from California, Oregon, Arizona and Tennessee (where Nissan is headquartered). On its first birthday, thirty states have access to the Leaf, and Nissan has plans to make it to 50 states by March of 2012. Recent additions include Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Nevada, Ohio and Rhode Island.

Leaf Races Backwards at Goodwood

It was really just a stunt for fun, but Nissan took the Leaf to the famous Goodwood race circuit in England this summer to prove that the Leaf is just as efficient going backwards as it is going forwards. Moving at 62 mph, driver, Nissan's driver, Terry Grant, skillfully backed the Leaf for over a mile of the treacherous course. Afterwards, Grant warned the adventurous against doing this at trick at home, "Driving backwards at those speeds is very tricky. You have to be super smooth at all times: any sudden movement of the steering wheel can have disastrous consequences."

It Takes a Leaf "Village"

Leaf's cumulative successes in its first year are not only impressive, but they are an interesting experiment in what one car in the hands of 17,000 owners worldwide can accomplish. Leaf drivers have logged 35 million miles in a pure EV, reduced C02 emissions by 7300 tons, used a daily electrical charge at an average of 3 hours per day and averaged driving range of only around 40 miles per day.

Global Award Winner

Just recently, the Nissan Leaf won Japan's Car of the Year award at the Tokyo Motor Show for its high-performance electric motor, quietness, ride comfort and handling stability. Other trophies in the Nissan Leaf's cabinet include 2012 RJC Car of the Year, presented by the Automotive Researchers' and Journalists' Conference of Japan. It also won the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame Car of the Year, 2011 European Car of the Year and the 2011 World Car of the Year.

I've also had a great year of experiencing the lifestyle and phenomenon of EV ownership with Hal, my Nissan Leaf. However jaded I may be as an automotive writer, the car has never failed to bring a smile to my face and make me proud to be a pioneer of a new era. And as Hal and I zip off into a new year, I'm excited to see what the future may bring as Nissan brings manufacturing here to the states.

Now I'm going to turn on Hal's air conditioning remotely and blow out the candle. Year two can only get better.

Want to learn more? Follow our long-term test of theNissan Leaf.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.