Nissan Hints At Future Of Its LEAF Electric Car


Nissan LEAF Concept

Ahead of the Tokyo motor show this week, Nissan is dropping hints about what the future of its LEAF electric car might be. We know that the LEAF will have a more powerful battery for 2016. The SL and SV models will have 107 miles of range, while the entry level S model will stick with the current battery that gives 83 miles of range. That actually is a pretty smart marketing move for Nissan. People who buy the S are more likely to be content with a basic people mover for getting back and forth to work and won’t need a lot of expensive options on their cars. Those willing to pay for more features will get longer range as a bonus.

According to Green Car Reports, Nissan may also have plans to offer the LEAF in several body styles, much as Toyota does with its Prius. Nissan executive vice president Trevor Mann told AutoCar recently, “There could be more than one Leaf. We’ve always said it needn’t be one car.” Mann hinted broadly that a crossover SUV model may be coming. Nissan has also released a teaser photo of what may be a smaller 3 door hatchback similar to the Prius C. That photo hints at what the second generation LEAF may look like when it gets here in 2017.

Tapping into the crossover market is very much on the mind of every manufacturer, and why not? It is the hottest segment of the automotive market, not just in the US but around the world. People are hungry for cute utes, so why not give them electric versions of the vehicles they want most? Tesla’s Elon Musk hinted a few weeks ago in a tweet (later deleted) that his company is working on an SUV version of the upcoming Model 3 with falcon wing doors. He suggested the car might be called the Model Y, which would make the full Tesla lineup S3XY. Get it? Musk may be an eccentric multi-billionaire, but he is not without a sense of humor.

Nissan executives Akiko Hoshino and Hiroto Saikawa told the press in Japan that Nissan expects EVs will account for 5% of Nissan sales soon and 10% “in the near future. And if we would use a wider definition of electrification and also count hybrids, more than half will be electric cars.” Presumably they mean plug-in hybrids, not Toyota Prius type hybrids. They say manufacturers will need to rely on electric vehicles to meet strict new emissions regulations coming soon. “The fuel consumption targets will become very stringent, and that will kick in at around 2019/2020, especially in the United States,” said Saikawa. “Suddenly there will be surge of demand.” They also say the price of automotive batteries will have come down enough by then to make the cars affordable.

Nissan is known to be working on longer range batteries for its electric cars. Company CEO Carlos Ghosn told shareholders in June that cars with a range of 500 kilometers (more than 300 miles) will be available from Nissan by 2018, according to GOEVGO. It is also developing autonomous driving software of its own. Bertil Schmitt, editor of the The Daily Kanbahn, says, “At the Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan is planning to put more than 100 journalists, foreign and Japanese, in a true autonomous drive Nissan LEAF, and will send them through thick Tokyo city traffic. Freeway is easy; city traffic is the holy grail of autonomous,” Schmitt says.

Clearly, Nissan is not standing still while the rest of the automotive world zooms ahead into the future. It is planning for a time when 50% of the cars it sells will be electric or plug-in hybrids and a family of electric vehicles based on the LEAF. Which raises the question: If there are two or more Nissan electric cars, are they called Nissan LEAFS or Nissan LEAVES? Such are the weighty concerns that prey on the mind of an automotive blogger these days.

About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.
  • Ramon A. Cardona

    I have a 2011 first generation Nissan Leaf and not matter what I do the car travels 3.1 miles per Kw giving an effective range of 60 miles plus 12 of “reserve” which would place the battery in a serious low energy state. Yet, it provides for 90% + of my transportation needs. Yet, the competition is moving forward. Nissan needs to acknowledge that standing still is not good as to range. The Chevy Bolt is going to set a new standard as to EV’s and, for goodness sake, Nissan, you need to consider promoting more DC or QC fast charging stations much like Tesla is doing, which explains in part why Tesla sales continue to rise. Free power is very tempting as to a car. Very tempting.

  • Mike Dill

    I spend 90% of my drive time alone in my car during my commute. i need a small, lightweight, one or two passenger EV. Hopefully some car company will build something for people like me. A smaller Leaf would be nice.

    • Dennis Heidner
    • Steve Hanley

      Let’s see what Nissan has on its stand in Tokyo this week.That concept teaser is said to be of a three door coupe. We’ll see.

    • walid

      You might look at a Renault twizy, some are already in the US with a Nissan badge, i know scoot in San Francisco uses them.

  • Greg Lindstrom

    so will it have 500km range?

    • Steve Hanley

      Range is a slippery concept for the LEAF right now. The 2016 will have 107 miles of range on SL an SV models.The 2017 is said to have 300 km of range. Carlos Ghosn has said 400 km and 500 km versions will be arriving by 2018.

      Will Nissan offer different size batteries at different prices? That might be a smart marketing move, just like Detroit used to offer a straight 6, a small V8, a larger V8 and a big honking V8, all in the same body style.

  • Michael Garcia

    electric vehicles need 2 things..
    a distance greater than 300 miles.. and charge times to full charge in under 15 minutes..
    until then they will not replace gasoline vehicles as the main vehicle of use..

    • Lynne Whelden

      Here, here!
      Heck, even 300 miles seems lame. I’m used to 400 plus miles from my gasser. Even then I find myself filling up every few days.

      • Andy

        If you are filling up your tank every few days, then you are not driving 400 miles in a day, so you don’t need that amount of range on a daily basis. The point of an electric car is you don’t need to stop to fill it up once a week, you are plugging it in at the end of the day and every morning the tank/battery is full. As to 300 miles and being able to fill it in 15 minutes, that is only needed for long road trips, something 99% of the population only does a few times or less per year, unless you are insane and do a daily commute of over 300 miles a day. If you can rapid charge it to 80% of that range in a half hour, after 4 hours of driving, that’s probably not a bad thing, use that time to eat, rest a bit before getting back on the road, and you’ll likely cut down on the number of accidents caused by people falling asleep while driving.

        Everyone that keeps stating they need those two things seems to forget that the average commute is less than 40 miles round trip, and the average total miles driven in a day is less than 100 miles for day to day errand running. So a car with 150-200 miles range easily leaves room to spare, and 300 miles would cover a few days, yet you’ll still be plugging it in at the end of the day.

        The real limit for electric vehicles comes from those that live in apartments, those places will need to add charging infrastructure to their parking areas as vehicles become more prominent.

        Gas vehicles will still have uses for long haul transport, but the majority of transport isn’t long haul.

        • MichaelT

          What you described fits our experience with our two Nissan Leafs. They are our primary vehicles. I even drive mine on my weekly 200-mile commute by using quick chargers. We have a gas backup that mostly sits. You cannot beat waking up to a full charge every morning.

          • Andy

            We have a 2013 Leaf S and a 2000 Nissan Frontier with the 4 cylinder and manual transmission. My wife drives the Frontier as her commute is about 10 miles a day round trip and I drive the Leaf as my commute is about 30 miles round trip. We use the Leaf as our primary car for errands etc, and I have a Juicebox rapid charger at home that can handle up to 15kw so future vehicles should be fine, it charges the Leaf at 6.6kw and having that we can run out in the morning, come home and go out again later in the day. 1 to 2 hours back at home and it is typically full again. Most days we can do a single trip to the far side of town, back through downtown and then home and have plenty of charge remaining.

            There are not enough rapid chargers where I live to go longer distances than the battery has range without careful planning and needing to use level 2 chargers for awhile. However the 30kw Leaf would have enough range to overcome those issues, and the next gen Leaf should have more than enough range for most places. Our lease is up in September of next year, its been a great car and we look forward to another Leaf.

      • Chris Coza

        You are not representative of the average distance travelled daily. I am used to my daily 20 plus miles in my electric. I never find myself going to a gas station every few days.

    • Chris Coza

      “electric vehicles need 2 things.. a distance greater than 300 miles.. and charge times to full charge in under 15 minutes..
      until then they will not replace gasoline vehicles as the main vehicle of use..”

      This is common thinking amongst people who don’t have an electric. Fact is that an electric is often suitable, and it does become the main vehicle of use. The time you are hinting at as “until then” came five years ago!

  • livelystone

    107 mile range is still not good enough for me to make the Leaf a feasible option. I’ll wait on the Tesla 3 for the 200 mile range.

    • Chris Coza

      That’s unfortunate for you. I only need a 20 mile range. Hence I enjoy all of the advantages an electric has to offer.

  • AaronD12

    If you brighten the picture, you can see this is a car with very widely-flared rear wheel wells and a spoiler that wraps around from those flares around the back. This is just a concept/design, not a preview of a future production car.

  • Bubba Nicholson

    Open wheel wells are a no go.