The future of driving is here at Smith Auto Group - Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf
The future may be whizzing by you, but you're not going to hear it coming. Smith Auto Group of Fort Smith has two 2012 models of electric cars on the road right now - the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf. One is a hybrid and the other is the first mass-production all-electric automobile. And the first thing you will notice about them is that you don't notice any engine sound at all.
When Smith Chevrolet sent a 2012 Chevy Volt to our office, it was quickly surrounded by the curious magazine staff. When we asked to hear the car start, we were surprised to be told it was still running. Only a hand on the hood to feel a hearty hum gave any evidence. Right behind it came Smith's new Nissan Leaf, although we saw rather than heard it coming down the street.
Test rides were in order. America first! The Chevy Volt is an all-American-looking car with styling related to the popular Chevy Malibu, its stablemate. The Volt's lines are clean and super-aerodynamic. It's sporty with a promise of muscularity, even standing still.
Ahead of the driver-side door is a port for charging the lithium-ion battery; the gas hatch is at the rear left fender. The Volt is a hybrid, with a powerful electric propulsion system that also can be powered by gas to generate electricity and extend its driving range. The Volt's 273-lb.-ft. of low-end torque goes directly to the wheels for a 0-60 mph time of less than 10 seconds and a top speed of 100, which is, of course, naughty. Drive safely!
You'll find you're in a well-appointed cabin while zooming along almost silently. The LCD screen instrument cluster indicates energy usage and power flow and gives you efficiency feedback based on your driving style - plus displays the speed.
A second LCD screen on the console is even more informative and is operated by voice commands or a touch screen. With two apps, learn everything from the car's charging status to tire pressure to navigation, all available on your smart phone, as well. Optional text or e-mail alerts send info to your phone, which can be used for remote programming of many features.
This abundantly equipped Volt, fully charged and filled with 9 gallons of gas, will run for more than 300 miles before an energy refueling of either kind. Most users will be plugging in at their own homes, overnight.
Home also is the main energy refilling location (forget gas stations) for the Nissan Leaf, which is 100 percent electric and proudly "zero emission."
While Chevy styled the Volt to be reassuringly familiar even with its new-tech features, the Leaf emphasizes its innovations, inviting drivers to think of themselves as pioneers. The automatic transmission gearshift even looks a bit like a computer mouse.
Nissan's sales literature boldly states that driving electric "isn't for everybody." But as 70 percent of Americans drive only about 40 miles a day and 95 percent drive fewer than 100 miles a day, Nissan asserts the Leaf, with a range of about 100 miles, is today's realistic alternative to a conventional, gasoline-powered vehicle.
In simple LED?displays, the Leaf plots range-management data for the driver. Range varies depending on driving habits and, like the Volt, the Leaf helps drivers adjust human behaviors to maximize energy efficiency. The Leaf recaptures energy during breaking, feeding power back to the battery to increase range.
Smart phones interface smoothly and can send remote commands to the Leaf.
Tech does not triumph over style and performance. The roomy, five-passenger cabin has every amenity, cup holder and advanced safety feature Nissan offers. But it delivers 100 percent torque right off the line and, with its battery in the center, the cornering is sporty.
Nissanleafdrivers.com is a website where Leaf owners compare and even compete about their driving ranges and give each other tips. Most of them write that they have normal, spontaneous driving lives with a short learning curve about keeping their batteries charged.
There's much more to learn about these cars. Start with their detailed and enjoyable websites, with pictures and videos explaining battery life, mechanics, on-board technology, style options and special features.
But driving is believing. The knowledgeable sales staff at Smith Chevrolet and Smith Nissan enjoy answering questions about these innovative new vehicles, down to the last techy detail. The future is charged up and available for a test drive today.
Learn more at smithautogroup.com
1215 U.S. 71 South, Fort Smith
6520 Autopark Drive, Fort Smith