I just got my second EV, and it is a Nissan Leaf.
It is a good-looking car, especially with its signature “Scarlet Ember” exterior. It drives smoothly, and rides comfortably. In fact, everyone who rode in the car told me they do not feel the difference between this and my Tesla. And I agree with them. It is that good.
However, the car is also very different from Tesla from a designing perspective. In particular, I feel this Nissan was designed by a team that was still stuck in the traditional car design paradigm. Let me give you a quick example: The power button.
You see, with keyless entry almost on any car these days, people do not need to use a physical key to open doors. But for gasoline powered cars, you still need to power it up by igniting its gas combustion process. Hence most cars have a power button to start the engine.
But do you still need it for an electric car?
Because its battery is ready any time, an electric car can be driven almost instantaneously. So you do not really a power button. All a driver needs to do is to shift into gear, and off she goes.
Tesla understands this, and therefore choose not to be a power button in its cars. Once you open the door and have your key (either the key card or your connected mobile phone), you are just shift into Drive and go.
But Nissan designers are just so used to a power button in its gasoline cars, it keeps one in its Leaf EV. As a result, I have to press that button, for no apparent function, before I can shift into drive. It is even more maddening that I have to press the button to power it off before I can start charging the car. It does not even let any passengers out of the car if I do not power it down. It is just that dumb.
This traditional design philosophy also carries itself out in almost all other aspect of its interior design. For example, they keep all the dedicated buttons – heating, cooling, lights, radios. On the steering wheels, all the + and – signs and activate and resume for cruise control. I personally find them unwieldy and hard to use.
From this small design choice of a power button, I sense that it is far from a sure things that the traditional auto manufacturers will be able to catch up with Tesla.