Diary of a Nissan LEAF Commuter
FORTUNE -- When an argon-blue Nissan Leaf, the first production all-electric, zero-emission family car to hit the U.S., whispered into my garage last month, I knew instantaneously that it was a game changer. New relationships come with hopes, fears, and surprises, and ours -- the Leaf's and my union -- went quickly from blind date to a marriage of convenience.
The Leaf is nothing short of a bellwether of the automotive revolution that is headed to a driveway near you. Tighter fuel-efficiency standards, emerging markets' requirements, fluctuating gas prices, and a race in powertrain innovations are all in play. Audi, GM (GM), VW, and others are jockeying for dominance. Audi wants to rule the luxury electric-vehicle (EV) market; its first entrant, a plug-in hybrid, will come to market in 2014. GM's solution, the Volt, has just gone on sale and offers a small onboard gas-powered generator to feed the electric motor and extend its range. VW will roll out its EV in 2013.
So Nissan wins the prize for being first to market with a production pure electric. The company's visionary CEO, Carlos Ghosn, saw the opportunity to dominate the EV category and pushed hard to get the appealingly bug-eyed five-door hatchback built. "With the arrival of the Leaf, it is in our hands, and that of the public, to steer our industry toward its future of sustainable mobility," Ghosn blogged recently. "We believe this innovative car will silence the skeptics and bring a valuable solution to life."
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