Driving Nissan's new electric car prototype

Nissan on Monday previewed its upcoming electric vehicle (EV) on Monday with the unveiling of its latest prototype and a new EV platform.

The prototype offers a taste of the performance that will be offered by a production electric vehicle that Nissan plans to announce this Sunday. While the body and interior will differ the core platform of the electric vehicle will be very close to that of the prototype. Nissan's production version will go on sale in Japan and North America in 2010 and should reach Europe in 2012.

The prototype is based on Nissan's Tiida car (Versa in North America, Latio in SE Asia), has room for 4 or 5 people and a top speed of just over 140kph, which is well over the speed limit in Japan and most other countries.

On a full charge it can travel at least 160 kilometers. That covers the typical daily distance driven by 98 percent of Japanese and British motorists, 95 percent of German drivers, 90 percent of those in France and about 80 percent of the average daily distance in the U.S. and China.

Nissan let me take it for a test drive around its track in Yokosuka, Japan, and it handles and performs just like you'd expect from a car in its class. With a few subtle exceptions, such as the battery indicator on the dashboard display panel, there are few clues it's an electric vehicle and that's perhaps the most impressive thing about the car. It's no Ferrari but it's also not a golf cart.

Coming out of a curve I put my foot down on the accelerator and the car took off quickly and easily reaching 100kph in a few seconds.