Nissan Leaf Coming to SF Saturday, Polar Bear Hugging Expected

There will be an actor in a bear suit at City Hall tomorrow, along with the Leaf.
There will be an actor in a bear suit at San Francisco City Hall tomorrow, along with the Leaf. Image: Nissan

The all-electric Nissan Leaf will make its debut tomorrow in San Francisco after the company delivers its first production vehicle to Olivier Chalouhi in Petaluma. Chalouhi was the first customer to order a Leaf online and the company intends to reward him for his early adoption. Chalouhi will pick up his vehicle at the Nissan dealership in Petaluma in the morning and drive it to the city for a 1:30 pm event at Civic Center in San Francisco.

At the press event, Chalouhi will be joined by Nissan America Chairman Carlos Tavares, Melanie Nutter from Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office, Bay Area Air Quality Management District CEO Jack Broadbent and Rafael Reyes of the Bay Area Climate Collaborative. A large polar bear (or at least an actor in a bear suit) will also attend, re-enacting the scene in a Leaf commercial where a polar bear hugs a man to thank him for embracing electric vehicle technology.

“Tomorrow’s event is a landmark in advancing clean transportation, not just for the region, but worldwide,” said BACC’s Rafael Reyes. “The mayors of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose set a target to make the Bay Area the EV capitol of the United States and that is coming to fruition in large measure because of the extraordinary collaboration around the region.”

Given the great deal of hype around the first all-electric mass-produced vehicle to hit land stateside, there have been 20,000 reservations for the Leaf, though Nissan representatives said those won’t necessarily translate into 20,000 orders. Worldwide, the company has initial production capacity for 50,000 of the vehicles.

The Leaf was recently rated by the Environmental Protection Agency to get the gasoline equivalent of 99 miles per gallon combined (102 city, 96 highway) and a battery charge range of between 60 and 140 miles, depending on conditions. The Leaf is technically a zero-emission vehicle, though this classification fails to take into account how that electricity was produced. In regions like the Bay Area, where electricity generation includes significant amounts renewable energy, the overall impact of the Leaf on greenhouse gas production will be superior to gasoline vehicles.

Even in the worst case scenario, says BAAQMD representative Karen Schkolnick, electric vehicles will produce lower emissions than the internal combustion standard. The BAAQMD has been a strong supporter of adding electric vehicle infrastructure and has spent $1.3 million in the last 12 months installing vehicle charging stations throughout the region.

Though Schkolnick acknowledged there is a threshold point where converting every vehicle in the Bay Area to electric, for example, would likely burden the grid, she was hopeful technological and efficiency improvements for generation and charging would improve the overall air-quality and health impacts of driving. She also noted that the gradual addition of vehicles, especially if they are charged at night, will use excess energy that otherwise currently gets wasted.

“We obviously don’t want to try to solve one problem by creating others. We do not see that this is a concern given the number of vehicles that are going to be available in the next 5 to 10 years,” said Schkolnick.

“Through incentives and financing models,” she said, the region can “incentivize and price-structure the ability to make sure there is not a negative impact on the grid.”

The event will start tomorrow at 1:30 pm in front of San Francisco City Hall. Look for the white bear suit.

Source: CA
Source: California Energy Commission
  • Alright, putting aside the whole issue of autos’ destructive and violent presence on our streets and neighborhoods, doesn’t the Jevons paradox invalidate much of the pro-EV thinking?

    I really wish I was going to be able to attend. The use of the polar bear is unbelievably vulgar and grotesque. The climate change folks who are associated with this event should be ashamed.

  • Since Justin put aside the issue of autos’ destructive and violent presence on our streets, which was appropriate within the context of his post, I’ll pick it right up from where he set it.

    I don’t think electric cars are going to help to decrease the ~40,000 deaths from autos yearly. We shouldn’t be cheering them too loudly. And Justin was right; the use of a polar bear costume is grotesque. The polar bear is supposed to speak for the environment at large, and I’d love to hear where all the rare Earth minerals came from for the construction of the car and its battery.

    Having said that, it will be a vast quality of life improvement, to me at least, when I don’t have choke on car exhaust on my bike ride home from work.

  • Jevons paradox is only applicable in situations with cheap/nearly unlimited energy supply (similar to the height of the industrial revolution.) The upslope of an expanding energy supply is grand, and it’s not surprising that people constantly created new technologies to exploit the power of that energy, resulting in increases in energy consumption that negated any efficiencies achieved.

    With a shrinking supply of fossil fuels, Jevons paradox will not be our problem. What we will find as Peak Oil hits is that we are too poor and too lacking in energy to build out a replacement fleet of private cars, electric or otherwise. We will also have a very difficult time coming up with the dollars and resources for an effective rail network, but because we won’t be able to get around at all without one, I am guessing we will somehow manage it.

    We will become more efficient and more parsimonious in our use of all forms of energy out of sheer necessity. We will live closer to where we work, travel less, bike and walk more. In my opinion, climate change is so dire, if we can get some people out of their SUVs and into a Leaf, it is a good thing, vulgar polar bears or not. The Leaf is smaller, make less noise, and smells better at least.

  • At 0:30, the polar bear walks down a bike path on a bridge, then crosses a bike lane in the shot immediate following, all without any sign of any kind of traffic (god forbid you see car traffic in a car commercial).

    It would seem this bear who can sense what is apparently Olivier Chalouhi all the way from the North Pole suffers from an incredible inability to perceive bicycles. It’s almost like the producers wanted to slip in even more smacks to the face to bike users.

  • the Godfather

    It will be a cold day in hell when I and all other SUV drivers will give up our safety to drive useless EV’s! I will crush them on the highway if they get in my way! The batteries destroy the environment WORSE than fossil fuel emissions! Wake up liberals! You lost the House and will soon lose the Senate! We will crush you like a cockroach!

  • SUVs are destined for history’s trash heap when peak oil’s pinch makes the fuel to power them too dam expensive. But on that cold day in hell (coming soon) perhaps we can set the trash heap ablaze and gather around the bonfire to keep warm 😉

  • Bob Davis

    The death toll from auto-related causes has been discussed before; most Americans (and people in some other countries) consider the risk/reward balance to favor the convenience of the motor vehicle over the risk of death or injury.

  • @peternatural SUVs aren’t the problem. Only motorists who drive obsess over the SUV (in an attempt to make their small-car driving seem less destructive and more eco-friendly). The problem isn’t so much the SUVs, its the millions and millions of little cars.

  • I really have to disagree that SUVs are not more of a problem than little cars. As a bicyclist, I much prefer to ride next to small cars than large trucks or SUVs. Because they are larger,trucks and SUVs come closer to me when I’m in the bike lane,they are harder to squeeze past in heavy traffic where there are no bike lanes, they are harder to get around when they double-park in the bike lane, and they tend to be noisier and put out more fumes that I am forced to breathe. So all around their presence is quite a bit more unpleasant. When I’m in the right lane on the Three Blocks of Terror on Oak between Baker and Scott, while a mini-cooper can pass me with ease, I’ve had SUVs terrify me by nearly scraping my left elbow. (I now take the lane on that stretch. I feel badly for the small cars behind me, but I just can’t risk an SUV or truck feeling like it can squeeze past me.)

    Also, SUVs and trucks take much more space to park, in general they add much more carbon to the atmosphere, and because they are heavier, they do much more damage to the roads than small cars. Yes, fewer cars and trucks on the roads all around would be better, but the physics of it mean propelling 3000lbs of steel is less costly/polluting/nasty than propelling 5000lbs of steel. Again, this is not to dismiss that what we really need to do is create compact liveable communities where people can easily get to most of the places they need to go by walking, biking, transit, etc.


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