The all-new 2018 Nissan Leaf electric hatch has been revealed in Japan today, at a giant tech-centric gala event inside the old Tokyo motor show venue.
The Leaf’s unveiling brings only limited surprises, having already been partly revealed and detailed through the usual media leaks. But, importantly for EV fans – and perhaps for detractors, too – today’s flood of data confirms the numbers brought you in August.
That means a ‘bigger’ battery pack, more power, far improved driving range, autonomous driving tech, more space, sleeker styling, and a new-fandangled ‘e-pedal’.
Let’s get to it.
BATTERY & CHARGE
In Japan specification, which is all that has been revealed so far, buyers will benefit from a huge leap in driving range, courtesy of an extra-dense new 40kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
That design is packed into the same space allocated to the previous model’s battery pack – initially a 24kWh, later upgraded to 30kWh.
“It’s the individual cell structure of the laminated lithium-ion battery cells that’s been improved, representing an impressive 67% increase in energy density versus the 2010 model,” Nissan says.
“Another key engineering improvement for the lithium-ion battery pack is enhanced electrode materials with revised chemistry, resulting in higher power density while contributing to greater battery durability upon charge and discharge.”
The new Nissan Leaf won’t offer Tesla-rivalling charge times, which means buyers will arrive at a full charge in 16 hours if using a 3kW connection, or 8 hours if using a more powerful 6kW point.
But, like BMW’s i3, the Leaf also offers a Quick Charging capability that will get your energy reserves to 80 per cent in just 40 minutes.
For those that can’t even begin to contemplate an EV until it can near the refuelling time of a conventional petrol or diesel car, you might have to hope more manufacturers and suppliers come around to hydrogen. For those with no need for epic range in an epic window, new-generation battery EVs might just satisfy.
Reports in recent months suggest we can expect an even bigger battery to be offered, although Nissan has yet to offer any official word on that front – despite our prodding.
With great density comes great range, in the EV world. And in the new Leaf, that means a vastly improved 400 kilometres from a single charge.
Of course, that’s again the Japan specification and, like any car, dependant entirely on the use case. Thus, ‘your mileage may vary’.
Regardless, Australian buyers familiar with the Leaf should expect a leap of not quite epic proportions, but, if nothing else, comparable to that of the far costlier Tesla Model S.
In its previous Australian-market form, where only the 24kWh battery pack had ever been offered, the Leaf offered little more than 120 kilometres of driving from a single charge. That’s barely bearable for the average motorist overcome with range anxiety, but many strictly urban owners would tell you it’s plenty for day-to-day living.
Now, with 400 kilometres-or-thereabouts up their sleEVe, buyers of this new model might at last be able to plan for a cross-country trip without fear of becoming stranded.
Indeed, Nissan says the new Leaf’s range “should satisfy the daily driving needs of the majority of our customers”.
The old model, with 80kW of power and 280Nm of torque, could be considered comparable with the average entry-level turbo petrol hatch of today’s market – although its electric propulsion did give it the advantage of proper pulling power from a standing start.
For 2018, Nissan hasn’t exactly pointed its bat at the hot-hatch market, but, this time with 110kW and 320Nm on offer – the latter from zero rpm through to 3283rpm – it’s tough to say the new Leaf isn’t starting to sound like a compelling option.
Before you get too excited, note: no acceleration figures have been offered at this point. Still, with the old model capable of ambling to 100km/h in about 12 seconds, this new should be able to get there in less than 10.
To that end, Nissan says: “Existing LEAF drivers already love the instant response and linearity of performance as they navigate the city. The new LEAF’s improved acceleration will boost enjoyment even further.”
SIZE & PACKAGING
Another set of numbers we can confirm out of last month’s leak, is the new Leaf’s dimensions.
As previously claimed, the new Leaf is now confirmed to measure 4480mm long and 1790mm wide, leaping beyond the 4445m and 1770mm, respectively, of the previous model. Wheelbase remains unchanged, at 2700mm, which means the new Leaf has found its extra length on the other side of each axle.
Thanks to that increase, the new Leaf claims increased luggage space, now up from 370 litres in the old model to 435 litres in the new.
Nissan claims a kerb weight of between 1490 and 1520kg for the new Leaf – a discrepancy presumably down to equipment specification.
With seating for five, the Leaf lists a gross vehicle weight of between 1765-1795kg.
Nissan Australia’s specifications for the old Leaf don’t include numbers for Kerb weight, although it does list tare – which in most cases is an unladen vehicle with all fluids but only 10 litres of fuel – at 1795kg.
The new Leaf lists a coefficient of drag of 0.28, making it nearly as slippery as the Prius hybrid’s 0.26 – the usual benchmark for green cars clearly designed for economy-focused aero.
RIDE, HANDLING, COMFORT: THE CLAIMS
The first global media drives of the new Leaf won’t occur until October, but Nissan has made a few claims for us to check on the day.
“When it comes to performance and agility, the new LEAF excels”. For an EV, or in general? We’ll know next month, but, in support of that bold claim, Nissan says it has moved and upgraded a number of components so as to deliver better stability on the go.
The battery pack and other heavy components are positioned mid-ship, with the promise of smaller yaw movements of inertia when compared with front-engined cars. Good start.
The Leaf also gets a new electric steering system that promises more of that crucial feedback generally absent from new-generation systems, courtesy of a software upgrade and a 10-per-cent boost in torsion bar stiffness.
Ride is also improved through a simple-enough measure, with the urethane bump stop at the rear suspension swapped out for a rubber unit. That’s joined by a new Intelligent Ride Control system for improved electric motor torque in cornering.
Lastly, rubber: depending on options, the new Leaf will wear either 205/55R16 or wider and lower-profile 215/50R17 tyres.
Nissan says interior comfort and quietness is “peerless” – a bold choice of words when up against the BMW i range and Tesla models, but one likely couched in a caveat along the lines of “among small electric hatchbacks in its price range”.
Still, the case for that claim is made by aerodynamic improvements and exterior refinements for less wind noise, along with noise-isolating covers over drive systems, and the electric motor itself has been refined to produce less noise.
No surprise, Nissan’s ProPilot autonomous technology will feature, giving the new Leaf some amount of assisted and self-driving capability on-the-go – although none not already available in market – and some handy parking features too.
On the go, that means adaptive cruise control, controlling distance to the vehicle in front – at speeds between “about” 30 and 100km/h – and coming to a complete stop in traffic as needed. A tap of the accelerator pedal or ProPilot button will see the car resume driving.
Steering can likewise be entrusted to the Leaf in emergency situations, with the car actively working to stay centred in its own lane.
ProPilot Park builds on that by taking total control of the parking process, from identifying a suitable space to managing all inputs – steering, acceleration and braking.
All of this is thanks to four high-resolution cameras and information from 12 ultrasonic sensors around the car.
Nissan has confirmed it is actively working to develop its ProPilot product into a fully rounded autonomous driving system, but, although not confirmed, buyers of the new Leaf are unlikely to see more and more new self-driving functions uploaded to their own car’s brain.
As detailed in July, the new Leaf will feature a special function that sees the accelerator pedal doing double duty on both throttle and braking.
Nissan says that, with the e-Pedal mode activated, users could – and this is according to data drawn from trials in Japan, Europe and the US – wind up using the go pedal for “more than 90 per cent” of accelerator and braking needs.
The gist of the concept is that when pressure is taken away from the accelerator pedal, the vehicle will instantly – and smoothly, they say – begin to decelerate at a rate of up to 0.2g.
That means that while you’ll still need to use the brake pedal in any situation that demands a rapid halt, cruising to the lights could be sorted without once tapping the left pedal.
“Drivers of the new LEAF will quickly come to love the e-Pedal, as it makes the usual experience of urban driving far smoother and more fluid, and less demanding,” said Hiroki Isobe, chief vehicle engineer.
“Our testing has showed that drivers quickly find the e-Pedal intuitive and even enjoyable. It promotes anticipation on the road, which in turn has a positive effect on driving pleasure.”
The gamification of braking? We’ll see.
As with many new cars, the new Leaf will feature two main digital displays: on behind the steering wheel and one in the dash centre.
Behind the wheel, there’s a combination analogue speedometer and digital multi-information display, the latter being a 7.0-inch full-colour TFT screen that displays the Leaf’s power gauge on its standard setting.
The centre display offers controls for entertainment, connectivity and navigation – and, hallelujah, Leaf buyers will be gifted with the first application of Apple CarPlay in a Nissan model. Android Auto is still to be confirmed, however.
This early on, Nissan isn’t saying. However, data available for the US suggests the Leaf will kick off there from US$29,990, which converts to $37,820 in Australian money. That price – not confirmed by Nissan but claimed by automotive sales website Autobytel to be correct – is apparently not far off the price of the first-generation model.
By comparison, the previous model launched in Australia at $51,900 and was reduced over time to $39,990 – and only ever with the smaller 24kWh battery pack.
Overall length: 4,480
Overall width: 1,790
Overall height: 1,540
Track width, front/rear: 1,540/1,555
Minimum ground clearance: 150
Coefficient of drag (Cd): 0.28
Tyres: 205/55R16 or 215/50R17
Storage: 435 litres, rear seats up (VDA)
Kerb weight: 1,490-1,520
Capacity: 5 passenger
Gross vehicle weight: 1765-1795
Battery Type: Li-ion battery
Electric motor Name: EM57
Maximum output: 110kw (150ps)/3283~9795rpm
Maximum torque: 320Nm (32.6kgf･m)/0~3283rpm
Cruising range: 400km (JC08)
Charging time (normal charging)
16 hours (3kW)
8 hours (6kW)
Charging time from alert to 80% (Quick Charging): 40 minutes
The new Leaf will go on sale in Japan from early October, with wider launch timing still to be confirmed.