Nissan Delivered The First Leaf To The U.S. A Decade Ago

Illustration for article titled Nissan Delivered The First Leaf To The U.S. A Decade Ago
Photo: Nissan

Nissan got out to a very early lead in the EV game by delivering the Leaf all the way back in 2011. It was really the first mass-market electric car with a somewhat within reach price tag. The small 24 kWh battery array and lack of battery temperature management which allowed that $34,570 base price way back then turned out to be difficult to live with long term. But, the company learned and adapted and later upgrades allowed the current 62 kWh Leaf Plus to achieve 226 miles of range for about the same price as that first Leaf.


On December 11th, 2010, the first U.S.-bound Leaf was delivered. In that decade, Nissan has delivered over 500,000 examples of the compact electric economy hatchback. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, it’s matched only by Tesla’s Model 3 and Y. Even Europe’s most popular EV, the Renault Zoe, can’t match its cousin in global sales.

It was pretty brave of a major international automaker like Nissan to jump into a new technology before it was a proven success, and thanks to the advancements learned in the production of the Leaf, Nissan is head and shoulders above pretty much every legacy automaker in EV knowledge.

I’ll be perfectly honest when I say that my 2011 Nissan Leaf is kind of bad at being a car. I have only had it a month or so, but I’m already so deeply in love with this piece of shit that I’ll never not have one. It’s obvious from the outset that the 2011 Leaf was built to a very low pricepoint. Interior materials and driving mannerisms are on par with maybe a $15,000 car at that time.

At the time it was reported that Nissan paid something like $1,000 per kilowatt hour of battery to produce a pack, so those early Leafs were probably sold at a loss. It feels a lot like a really quiet Versa with a CVT, which definitely isn’t a $35,000 driving experience, but considering I got mine in 2020 for just $2,000, I’m perfectly happy with that.

Is the new Leaf better than the one Nissan turned out a decade ago? Hell yeah it is. Does that mean I love my early Leaf any less? Not a chance.


Anyway, happy birthday to my Leaf. Maybe I’ll treat it to some low-viscosity gear reduction box fluid as a treat. I did just buy some new wheels and tires for it, but those will have to be Christmas presents, I guess. Damn December birthdays.

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.


Shane Morris

I mean, it’s $2,000 for a car that won’t require gas, or... many common wear parts.

My brother did the same thing in LA.

A used Prius C for groceries ($3200) and his motorcycles for everything else.

It's a hella smart move.