Leaf start-up glitch leaves electric vehicle drivers, Nissan stranded

Nissan is facing yet another setback with its electric-powered vehicle, the Leaf. Today, the carmaker acknowledged reports of the Leaf failing to start due to problems with its air conditioning unit.

The Leaf is an ambitious electric vehicles with a low (by electric vehicle standards) price tag — still a hefty $33,000 — designed to attract more casual drivers to the electric car market. But Nissan has faced significant setbacks in deploying the car in the United States.

The 2011 Leaf is produced alongside non-electric cars such as the 2011 Juke and the 2011 Cube in Nissan plants. This method of production enables new cars to be gradually phased in, without disrupting the plant production schedule. But the strategy has come at a price–while there are more than 20,000 reservations in the U.S. for the Leaf, only 453 vehicles have made it stateside to date.

A 9.0-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Japan also stalled production of Leaf vehicles at Nissan’s plant, further delaying shipments of the car to the United States. That was supposed to change when Nissan announced that its Japanese factory responsible for making the five-seat family hatchback was set to double production over the next month. One in every six cars coming off Nissan’s Oppama production line was a Leaf. Nissan promised every third car would be a Leaf by the end of March.

There are plenty of other electric vehicle manufacturers, like Tesla Motors and Coda, that are looking to swipe some of Nissan’s customers in the nascent market.

Nissan said it does not plan to issue a recall for the Leaf as a result of the glitch, for which there is currently no fix.

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[Photo:  Tom Raftery]

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