Saleswoman pitches all-electric car

Saleswoman pitches all-electric car
Salesperson Julie Yap discusses some of the features of the Nissan Leaf at Lupient Nissan in Rochester.

Julie Yap describes herself as something of a techie geek, which is probably why she is the principle salesperson responsible for selling Nissan's new electric car at Lupient Nissan in Rochester.


One of Yap's favorite things about the Nissan Leaf is the car's computer system, which allows the owner to control a number of its features remotely. For example, using a personal computer or smartphone, the car's heater or air conditioning can be turned on or scheduled to turn on at specific times to preheat or pre-cool the interior.

Since few people are familiar with the 100-percent electric car, Yap received many hours of special training — including a trip to a Nissan facility in Chicago — to be able to explain its features and how its battery-powered motor works.

Yap has sold two Leafs since Lupient first received the car in late March. The cars are available by order only, and the delivery time is six to eight weeks. The price ranges from about $35,000 to $38,000, depending on the version and features.


About a month ago, Rose and Bruce Laabs became the first Rochester Leaf owners and among of the first in Minnesota. They had been awaiting the car's availability since they heard about its development years ago, Yap said.

The Laabs' primary reason for wanting the car is its zero emissions and their desire to do all they can to be environmentally conscious, Rose Laab said.

"That was our reason. We really don't want to contribute more to pollution, and there are no emissions. We aren't adding anything to the atmosphere (by driving it,)" she said.

Laab said she realizes that the electricity she buys to power the Leaf is made primarily from burning coal. "But we can hope that some day, more of it will come from wind power," she said.

Other "green" aspects of the Leaf are that it's made with recycled materials and is meant to be recycled at the end of its life. Its 650-pound battery pack, along the bottom of the car's body, is good for 100,000 miles. After that, the battery packs still have about 70 percent of their capacity remaining and can be used as backup energy storage, holding wind or solar power for utilities, Yap said.

So far, Laab and her husband love the car, she said, adding that they have owned two other manufacturers' hybrids.

"It's so smooth and quiet, and it handles beautifully. It's really a neat car," she said of the Leaf.

One of Nissan's promotional phrases for the Leaf is "No gas, no tailpipe." Instead of checking gasoline prices, Leaf owners will check their current electricity rates. There are no oil changes or tune-ups — just the regular tire rotations and a once-a-year battery inspection.


The car can go about 100 miles on a single charge. Owners can plug it into a regular electric socket, and it will charge in 12 to 15 hours. Or, they can charge the Leaf in five to seven hours using a Class 2, 240-volt charging dock, which is a $2,000 accessory that can be added to the financing of the car.

In Rochester, there are three locations to find plug-in vehicle chargers. Nissan has three at its dealership for Nissan owners. Also, Rochester Public Utilities has three that can be used for various kinds of plug-in vehicles — one is at RPU's service center at 4000 East River Road N.E.; another is in the First Street parking ramp downtown and the third is in a parking lot at Rochester Community and Technical College.

The cost to use RPU's charging stations at RCTC and in the First Street ramp is $1.50 per hour. The station on East River Road is free, said RPU Spokesman Tony Benson.

West Coast states are embracing electric and hybrid vehicles unlike any other part of the country. One example is Interstate 5, now also known as the West Coast Green Highway, or "electric highway." It runs 1,350 miles from the Canadian border to the Mexican border and the goal is to have fast-charging stations every 26 to 60 miles.

Here in Minnesota and the Midwest, things are moving quite a bit slower with regard to electric and hybrid vehicle support, but Yap said she expects that will change in the future.

"I took my granddaughter for a ride in the Leaf and I thought, you know, this is new for me, but someday it will be old hat for her," she said.


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