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NHTSA, EPA officials test drive the Nissan Leaf

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NHTSA, EPA officials test drive the Nissan Leaf

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington -- The Nissan Leaf is getting a once-over by some of Washington's most influential auto policymakers this week.

The Japanese automaker has had one of its early models in the nation's capital for most of the week, offering test drives to auto reporters and government officials.

Nissan plans to sell 50,000 Leaf vehicles worldwide over the first year, with deliveries to begin late this year. Around 20,000 are expected to be sold in the United States. The vehicle can get up to 100 miles on a single battery charge.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator, David Strickland, and his deputy, Ron Medford, took it out for a spin this week, as did Margo Oge, the director of the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Transportation and Air Quality.

Also driving the Leaf was Lachlan Seward, director of the Energy Department's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program.

Nissan closed in January on a $1.4 billion loan from the ATVM program to retool the Smyrna, Tenn. factory to build electric automobiles and an advanced battery manufacturing facility.

The automaker plans to use the proceeds from the loan to produce the next generation Leaf at the Tennessee plant starting in 2012. Nissan plans to ramp up production capacity in Smyrna up to 150,000 vehicles annually.

Nissan anticipates the project will add up to 1,300 jobs when full production is reached. Retooling of the existing plant and construction of the battery plant will support about 250 jobs.

Tennessee is offering a $2,500 state tax credit to the first 1,000 buyers of fully electric vehicles.

The Leaf -- which was in Hawaii for two days this month, and also made stops on the west coast and Detroit -- is visting the White House complex today.

Nissan officials were showing the vehicles to staff from the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which is on Jackson Place next to Lafayette Park.

President Barack Obama has made electric vehicles a big part of his administration's focus and called during the campaign for 1 million plug-in electric hybrid vehicles on the roads by 2015.

Obama made a surprise phone call this week to the grand opening of an A123 battery plant in Livonia on Monday. The President said the U.S. could have the capacity to build 40 percent of the world's advanced batteries, up from less than 2 percent.

"That means when folks lift up the hoods on the cars of the future," Obama said. "I want them to see engines and batteries that are stamped, made in America."

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., also got a Leaf test drive. Markey -- who owns a Toyota Camry hybrid -- was spotted in front of the Leaf on Wednesday on Capitol Hill with actress Eva Longoria. The two posed for a picture in front of the Leaf.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20100916/AUTO01/9160467/1148/auto01/NHTSA--EPA-officials-test-drive-the-Nissan-Leaf#ixzz0zjXZUL8L

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By Andrew Ganz

Nissan's Leaf is set to become the most advanced EV ever offered to consumers in North America when it goes on sale later this year. To promote the technology to the government, Nissan has taken a pilot production Leaf to Washington, D.C., so that lawmakers can take it for a spin.

Nissan has offered Leaf test drives to a number of government officials, but the automaker is primarily aiming quick spins at National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Environmental Protection Agency workers, including NHTSA Administrator David Strickland and EPA Office of Transportation and Air Quality Director Margo Oge.

"The vehicle is very well thought out. The level of detail in how they dealt with the [human-machine interface] and maximized recyclable materials in the car showed a lot of thinking went into every aspect of the Leaf," Strickland told the Detroit News.

Nissan also made sure that the director of the Energy Department's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, Lachlan Seward, got a little time behind the wheel. Seward's department was responsible for loaning Nissan $1.4 billion earlier this year to retool its Smyrna, Tennessee, assembly plant, where North American-specification Leafs will be assembled.

Of course, a few celebrities made an appearance as well. According to the Detroit News, actress Eva Longoria posed in front of the Leaf with Massachusetts Democrat, Representative Ed Markey for a photo. Markey drives a Toyota Camry Hybrid.



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Noticing that most test drives were taken by Bureaucrats and not Politicians. Since they don't read bills before they vote they probably wont test drive before they buy.

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