2018 Nissan LEAF Will Have 200 Mile Range


Nissan IDS concept

Just before the Tokyo Motor Show last week, Nissan did something highly unusual. It invited members of the press to visit is super-secret Advanced Technology Center in Atsugi, a town in the mountains southwest of Tokyo. Up to that point, most people assumed that when the second generation LEAF goes on sale in 2018, it will have double the range of the original. Since 2011, the LEAF has come with a 24 kWh battery good for about 82 miles of all electric driving. Everyone thought the new car would have a 48 kWh battery with about 160 miles of range. But in fact, the new car will have a 60 kWh battery that is said to permit as much as 500 kilometers of range in the rather optimistic Japanese test cycle.

500 kilometers translates into 300 miles, but that number is typically about 1/3 less using EPA standards, so we can expect roughly 200 miles of range in US trim. The new battery not only has more than double the power of the original, it fits in the same space as the battery from 2010. How is that possible?

The credit goes to scientists at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. They started working back in 2011 on a new battery cathode made from an allow of nickel, manganese and cobalt that permits significantly higher energy flow and higher voltages. The new cathode makes it possible to more than double battery power and slash recharging times in half. It’s a closely guarded secret, but Bertil Schmitt of the Daily Kanban says he was told the new battery is the result of a collaboration between Nissan and LG Chem. Sharp eyed readers will remember that LG Chem also supplies the battery for the Chevy Volt and is partnering with Chevrolet on its upcoming Bolt electric car.

While Nissan offered few hints about what the second generation car would look like, it did say the new car would incorporate several features from its IDS Concept car that was featured on its stand in Tokyo. That car makes extensive use of carbon fiber body parts. Nissan showed the journalists a carbon fiber A pillar from the IDS Concept. Is it possible that part will find its way into the next LEAF? The component is much narrower than a conventional steel A pillar, which enhances outward visibility for the driver, but the A pillar is critical to passing all 5 IIHS crash tests. Is a lighter, thinner carbon fiber component able to withstand that kind of punishment?

Nissan also says the next generation LEAF will have an autonomous driving system that is more advanced than the one Tesla uses, because it includes more cameras for a true 360 degree view around the entire automobile. More cameras mean more data. More data means more accurate control of the car. Nissan says the 2018 LEAF will be able to drive itself on the highway and that intown autonomous driving will be available by 2020. That’s 5 years sooner than Klaus Froehlich, BMW’s R&D chief says self-driving in the city will be possible.

The big question is, how much will all this goodness cost? If Nissan can bring the car to market for a price close to the current car, that will be a stunning achievement.

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.

  • Marion Meads

    Me too eh? And one year too late.

    • Steve Hanley

      1 year to late for whom, Marion? Frankly the news from Nissan does not make it at all clear whether this will be a 2018 model year car released in late 2017 or whether it will actually not make it to market until 2018.

      If you are thinking the Tesla Model 3 will make it to market first, keep in mind that Tesla has NEVER brought a car to market less than 2 years late. Lots of people are more than a little skeptical that the Model 3 will debut on time.

      As for the Chevy Bolt, it is a smaller car than the LEAF with fewer tech goodies. Plus, Nissan has the advantage of almost 200,000 (mostly) satisfied LEAF owners worldwide. The Bolt is starting from ground zero.

      I agree getting to market first may be an advantage, but I don’t think the time difference between these three cars will be all that great by the time they all go on sale. It should be pretty interesting in the electric car business in the next few years.

      • Marion Meads

        1 year later than the Chevy Bolt, Steve! The first to drop the Bomb Shell was Tesla’s Model 3 about mass affordable 200 mile BEV. Then they were upended by GM by displaying the concept Bolt and moved up the manufacturing and production. Should be ready by November 2016. It pressurized Nissan, and now they came up with their me too 200 mile model and release it as a 2018 Model in 2017. This is pay back time for GM when their cheapo dirty looking interior Nissan Leaf upended the Chevy Volt’s release.

        Don’t you know that the Chevy Bolt will be marketed as SUV? So you are mistaken about its size, especially the interior. It can qualify for a small SUV. They’re planning a CUV version too, and hoping that they come up with AWD modification as all of the CUV’s in the market are already AWD.

        The Nissan Leaf is cheapo looking with poor batteries that degrades quicker than what GM is using, but soon they too would be using LG Chem’s like GM.

        Nissan should improve the interior of the Leaf, even their 200 mile late coming one into the mass affordable long range EV. It still looks shiny cheap plastic made in China. And the suicide doors in the pic, I pray they don’t do that to the 200 mile Nissan Leaf. But again, that’s just me and the other Chevy Volt 2016 owners and soon to be 2017 Chevy Bolt owners.

        • Steve Hanley

          Well. Marion. Things are never quite what they seem in the car business. Remember the new Chevy Volt was supposed to be here by now. Instead its introduction has been pushed back at least 6 months to next spring, except for 10 states. So you just never know what products will be on the market first.

          But I think you are right that the Bolt will get there first. However, Chevrolet itself says the car is based on the Sonic, which is significantly smaller than the LEAF. That’s why the Bolt has that panoramic glass roof, to give it the feel of a bigger car.

          But I will say that Nissan has the worst styling in and out of any major manufacturer. I really hope they pick up their game in that regard. IF they need inspiration, they could drive by any Hyundai or Kia dealership for ideas on how a car should look. ; – )

          • The new Chevy Volt is here now. You just have to have the right location of “here” (“here” being defined as a CARB state)

        • Raphael Sturm

          If they also reduce charging times by half, (you could recharge 160 miles in 10 minutes) I don’t care how it looks, this will be superior to every cat that takes 20 or even 30 minutes to recharge the same range. However, if those cells are also built into the Bolt, or if Tesla/Panasonic has anything similar, you might be right.

    • Robert Pollock

      Speaking of batteries, they are something I tried to ignore most of my life but have recently become critical, so heightened interest; The 21 kwh Lith-ion battery that comes with the Spark EV is rated (EPA) at 81 miles of range. It’s never charged up to less than 76, average being just about 80+. The first winter (when ambient temperatures are ideal), it routinely charged to over 100 miles of range, 101, a 104 once. Now after 24 months, it stll charges to about 80 miles always, I’m expecting a little more as the summer heat dissipates. Very good battery, made in the USA, mid-west some where. If Justin is anything like his father, he’ll implement some socialist policies that will boost acceptance of EV’s up north. My friends up there are mostly clueless.

  • gReG sKi

    2018? What? Are they playing the inevitable three years out game, like the products that never come?

    • AaronD12

      The 2018 model year can arrive as early as January 2017 which is only 14 months away…

  • Marley

    ” The new battery not only has more than double the power of the original, it fits in the same space as the battery from 2010.” Would owners of older Leafs be able to someday upgrade their battery?

    • Steve Hanley

      I think not, Marley. The new battery is said to operate at higher voltages than the original. I think swapping one for the other would probably have dire consequences for the electrical and battery management system in the old car. Interesting thought, though,,,,,,

      • Quite disappointing. I would love to upgrade my beloved Leaf to a 200 mile range, even if it cost several thousand dollars. Oh, well, I’m unaware of any other EV with an upgrade option (other than the Roadster).

        • Raphael Sturm

          The Model S ia also upgradable, but upgrades can be tricky.
          There are some factors that can make upgrading very expensive, or even impossible. One of those factors is pack voltage. If they decide to go from, lets just say, 400 to 500V, at least the DCDC converter and maybe also the charger, if it bypasses the DCDC, would have to be changed. Thats possible but expensive. But, if the pack size changes, you would have to design a pack just for the old Leaf, again very expensive. If also the cells size changes, so it won’t fit in the existing volume, it is completely impossible, to create a useful pack for retrofitters. They could try to make the new cell and pack backwards compatible, but backwards compatibility can limit practicality or increase cost, what might hurt future sales. I guess if its possible they might give the option, but if there is a better solution for the new model, that isn’t backwards compatible, they will still use it.

  • I love competition! I have a feeling electric vehicles (and plug-in hybrids) will become extremely exciting over the next 10 years (and beyond). I have a feeling we are at the edge about to undergo a major change that hasn’t been seen for almost a century in the automotive world.

  • Raphael Sturm

    Do you mean “more than double the battery power” or more than “double the battery ENERGY”. From my standpoint the energy density, at least in volume went up 150%, but do you also mean the power went up more than 100%.
    (I don’t want to be pedantic, its just for informational reasons. Its very common to refer to power, when energy is meant…. well exergy, but that goes to far.)

  • This is great news, but my understanding is that 2018 has not been indicated by the company for this vehicle. From what I read, Bertel took that as an implication… (with a big window for error, imho).

    It seems very possible, but it certainly isn’t official news from Nissan last I checked.

    • Joseph Dubeau

      That’s right, it isn’t official. Just more teasing.

    • bioburner

      Its pressure from GM. It is forcing the car to market because the other guys (GM) will have a car on the dealer lots.

  • Martin Boyd

    Gotta say kudos to Nissan and its partners on the development of a better battery, autonomous driving capability for improved safty, and use of carbon fiber components to make the car more safe as well as efficient. These are three incredibly beneficial achievements. If I may, here are some additional features to add…forget about only having a car with more and more range – that’s just a reaction to unfounded desires by a public that doesn’t yet appreciate the concept of being able to recharge so easily from home. It would be better to focus even more on improving efficiency to lower the car’s carbon footprint. I’m VERY happy already with the incredible mileage that my 2015 Leaf gets (160 to 195 on average and even as high as 253 MPGe), but my guess is that even higher mileage rates can be obtained. Look for additional ways to generate electricity such as with Firestone’s new tires that incorporate thermo-pezioelectric tires. Let’s see more use of solar panels too rather than just in the rear spoiler. I’d also like to see more advances in the area of networked cars that car share potential route delays so that alternative routes can be considered. This technology already exists, so why not integrate it into the car’s navigation system. And let’s take this a step further to end pile-ups. Include an emergency slow down/stop capability when a sudden unexpected slow down or stoppage just up ahead is detected. This can be accomplished directly with onboard sensors as well as through monitoring network traffic shared by other cars on the road ahead. These additional capabilities fall right in line with Nissan’s new Zero Emissions and Zero Fatalities goal.