First Nissan Leaf in Texas Lands in Houston

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Christie Sauers with daughters Annabel and Allie

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) Nissan's 100% battery powered Leaf has already been delivered to patient customers in California, Arizona, Tennessee, Oregon, and Washington. Now the first mass-produced all-electric vehicle (EV) has arrived in the Lone Star State. Some may have speculated that the state's first EV would end up in Austin, Texas's most liberal city--but they would have been wrong.

The first Nissan Leaf to come to Texas has landed in the hands of a suburban family in Houston - the oil capital of America. The Sauers family picked up their new ride at a dealership in Clear Lake. But with Nissan confirming that production of the car is moving slower than anticipated, the Sauers will likely be the only ones driving the Leaf around here for a while.

Hear the the story--and watch the unveiling-- over at KUHF News.

Jimmy Sauers and his wife Christie are the happy owners of Texas's first Leaf. The Sauers have three little girls and live in Seabrook, southeast of Houston.  “Last time I bought a car, it wasn’t quite like this,” said Sauers with a laugh.

It wasn't your typical auto purchase experience. The family had to wait through speeches and a lot of camera flashes before they were free to drive their shiny blue car home. In ideal conditions the Leaf can go up 130 miles or so on a single charge. The fact that the Leaf has zero tail-pipe emissions was a major part of their decision to sign up for the car.

“We’re a Christian family we believe God gave us this earth to be good stewards of it," said Sauers as he sat comfortably behind the wheel of his new commuter car. "And so anytime we can use our resources more efficiently – whether it’s our natural resources or whether it’s our personal finances, or our time, or our energy – we believe that we should use everything as efficiently as possible.”

From left: John Prindle of Clear Lake Nissan, Jimmy Sauers, Amie Sauers, Christie Sauers, Annabel Sauers, Allie Sauers, Pat Steiner-Regional Vice President with Nissan North America

Laura Spanjian, Houston’s sustainability director, is elated that the first Leaf in Texas will be zipping around Houston’s roads.  “All right!" she exclaimed. "We got the first car in Texas! Is that not so exciting? Have we not all been waiting for this? I have been waiting. You guys better be careful, because I might steal those keys.” 

Sauers reserved the Leaf last April, along with a thousand other Texans. He says getting handed the keys had been a long time coming. The other names on Nissan’s reservation list may have to wait a little longer too.

Nissan says it probably started its pre-launch reservations of the car a little early. Steve Parrett is a spokesperson with the company, and he says the demand for the car was a lot higher than expected.  And at the same time, he said, "our manufacturing production ramp-up has been slow." He points out that while production is typically slow with a new vehicle, it's even slower with the Leaf. "We want to get it right, obviously," he said. "So it’s taking us longer to get the vehicles into the pipelines and out to the customers.”

Only one plant is producing the Leaf right now--and it’s in Japan. Nissan will start building the cars at its Tennessee facility late next year.

Sauers says he and his wife are going to share the car, which is their second. She’ll drive it when she goes to work at NASA. He’ll drive it three days a week when he commutes to his job at Reliant downtown. They’ll mostly depend on their home-charger to fill up the car’s battery. But Sauers says he’ll use one of the 15 charging stations downtown if he needs to.

NRG Energy is working with the city to make Houston electric-car friendly. The power company is installing 150 charging stations around the area starting in March.

The Leaf will be on display today at the Houston Auto Show.