We headed down to the OC Auto Show this past Saturday for the Nissan LEAF drive electric tour.

I had a scheduled drive time at around 9:00am and we pretty much got there with plenty of time to spare. All of the drive events from the various manufacturers we setup outside of the convention center. I passed an impressive display from Ford and a large driving course for Toyota. Nissan was setup pretty far down the convention centers back lot on top of a parking structure.

Once checked into the Nissan drive event you waited for your name to appear on a screen with a group of other drivers. I lucked out and just as I finished checking in a group was being led into the next area of the display. From here a rep took you through a few pavilions designed to educate the consumer on the Nissan Leaf.

The first area covered the Leaf mock up frame and battery technology. Information was covered about getting setup with Level 2 home charging stations and display models were on hand to help explain all of the components. The group then had an opportunity to ask questions before moving on to the second demo area.

Here we given a small presentation on the technology inside the car and benefits of electric propulsion. The Leaf smart phone app was on display and a quick feature tour of the connectivity was given. After a quick Q/A we were whisked to the third demo room.

This was the range anxiety portion of the program. This area focused on the range of the car, variations in expected range. A volunteer approached a large TV to enter his daily driving habits. His commute was very long and passed the expected 80 mile range of the car which brought a small chuckle from the group. The rep countered effectively that he would just need a small charge to make the trip work, this might come from an opportunity charge at work or a public charging station someplace close by. The volunteer mentioned he knew of a public charging station near his work much to the delight of our guide.

Finally we were taken to two actual cars and given a tour around the Leaf. Most of the this tour took place at the front of the car showing the charge ports and engine (or lack there of) compartment. The opportunity charger was stored inside a small nylon bag that attached to the wall of the “trunk” compartment. With that our tour was complete and we were free to check out the car more and ask questions. I made my way to the drive line and awaited my turn.

The course looked to be a typical drive event with a track laid out in cones on top of the parking lot structure. It wound around a few turns before disappearing down a ramp to return some time later. I watched numerous people enter and exit the vehicle, all seemed to have enjoyed the drive. Many made their way to the hospitality tent for refreshments and snacks. A few people took advantage of the contest promotion to record a video that would be voted on by the public to win a Nissan Leaf. I would just get tongue tied so decided to pass on that opportunity.

As my turn neared secretly I hoped to get a demo leaf in the iconic blue color that is used in all of the advertising campaigns. Luckily I did. My Nissan rep in the car was very friendly and went over the basics of putting the car in drive. In no time we were off and zipping around the man made track before heading down the ramp that I saw many a car disappear. Much to my surprise we were going to take these things out on public streets. I made a left out of the convention center and we were on the wild streets of Anaheim braving So. Cal tourist traffic. The surface street course was a good length, it must have been a 10-15 minute drive that covered residential and commercial streets.

About half way through the trip my Nissan rep had me put the car into econ mode and explained the benefits. I immediately felt the change in acceleration. This mode really takes the oomph out of the pedal. While in econ I found myself willing the car to make the left hand turn back into the convention center when I misjudged the distance of oncoming traffic. I am sure this is just a learning curve thing but it did make me realize that you have to park your previous driving style at the door. Sorry Nissan rep hope it wasn’t that close!

With that I ended my drive demo and headed in for a pastry and glass of water before checking out the rest of the auto show. All in all a really great day except for Nissan only having a locked prototype Juke on the show floor. Silly tease…

Check out the Nissan promotional video from the event: