This story about the 2018 Nissan LEAF was first published on CleanTechnica
Update: This article has been updated to clarify that the 400 km range Nissan mentioned is apparently on the Japanese testing system, which probably means something closer to 240–300 km (150–190 miles) in the real world.
Nissan just unveiled its new 2018 Nissan LEAF, which features a completely new exterior design that is sure to be less polarizing and more in line with the look and feel of the rest of the Nissan fleet. Following the event, Nissan launched the official 2018 Nissan LEAF website to lure the thousands viewing the livestream in with all the juicy details.
The additional details highlight just how much Nissan has done to round off the edges on the first-generation LEAF that made it a less attractive option for mainstream consumers, while also adding exciting new autonomous vehicle technology to ensure it would continue to be relevant in light of the onslaught from the Tesla Model 3.
The 40 kWh battery pack affords the new 2018 Nissan LEAF an impressive 400 kilometer (249 mile) range that puts it at the top of its class in range, but seemingly on the unrealistic Japanese system. [Edit: Presuming the 400 km estimate is on the Japanese system, the EPA rating should be considerably lower, likely even putting the figure below the base Model 3. But we have to wait for the EPA rating to confirm how much different the rating will be. That said, the Nissan press release mentions 150 miles of range at one point. The Tesla Model 3 has an EPA rating of 220 miles of range and the Chevrolet Bolt has an EPA rating of 238 miles of range.]
That battery is able to be refilled at an impressive rate as well, with a 40 minute charge time from the built-in low battery alert back to an 80% charge. That will not break any speed records and likely still feels slow to mainstream consumers, but it shows that it’s possible to keep quick charge times down as 200+ mile EVs drive battery sizes higher and higher.
The longer range on the new 2018 Nissan LEAF — nearly triple that of the first-generation 85 mile LEAF — was done without tripling the capacity of the battery. This impressive feat is a testament to Nissan’s expertise in electric powertrains, especially when considering that Nissan made the powertrain even more powerful with a new 147 horsepower | 236 lb-ft torque electric motor. What’s more, Nissan brought all of this new technology and efficiency into the new 2018 LEAF while keeping the MSRP under $30,000!
Mainstream Vehicle Design
Anyone who has driven the first generation Nissan LEAF knows the looks others give the car. It’s a funny looking vehicle with strange headlights that protrude from the front of the car like bug eyes sticking out from the front. I distinctly recall the looks my coworkers gave it when the first saw it in the parking lot, laughing at how silly they thought it looked while I looked on from the distance. I personally like the look of the first-generation LEAF, but at the same time prefer EVs with more mainstream appeal simply because they are more likely to be adopted by mainstream consumers. We have to save the planet here, people.
For that reason, I am thoroughly satisfied that Nissan went back to the drawing board with the redesign of the 2018 Nissan LEAF, which has a much more mainstream look to it while still holding onto some of the fun design cues of the original. The high, awkward, first-generation LEAF has had its top chopped, leaving behind a lower, sportier LEAF that carries forward some of the design elements from the Nissan IDS Concept without similarly alienating consumers by going full-bore modern.
The nose of the new LEAF is striking and aggressive, sharpening up the round, bubbly curves that defined the first generation and tightening up the edges. It is almost as if the first-generation LEAF went away for a boot camp for the summer and has only now taken off the wraps to reveal its new hardbody.
Autonomous Driving Features
Nissan didn’t stop there with the new LEAF but instead took on the competition head on with the intentional inclusion of the Nissan ProPILOT Assist solution that brings along a smattering of autonomous driving technologies that aim to compete with Tesla’s Autopilot solution.
“The new Nissan LEAF drives Nissan Intelligent Mobility, which is the core brand strategy for Nissan’s future,” said Hiroto Saikawa, president and chief executive officer of Nissan. “The new Nissan LEAF, with its improved autonomy range, combined with the evolution of autonomous drive technology, such as ProPILOT Assist and the simple operation of the e-Pedal, strengthens Nissan’s EV leadership, as well as the expansion of EVs globally. It also has the core competency of future Nissan models.”
ProPILOT Assist is Nissan’s implementation of one of my favorite autonomous driving technologies — Traffic Aware Cruise Control (TACC) — which allows the driver to set the cruise control speed and adjusts dynamically to traffic conditions as they change around the vehicle. If the driver in front of the vehicle slows down quickly, ProPILOT will accordingly decrease the speed of the vehicle to maintain a preset buffer distance (or time), set by the driver.
Nissan pushed beyond mere intelligent cruise control with the ability to actually steer the vehicle, keeping it centered in the lane. The combination of these two technologies will make freeway driving much less stressful as the driver hands over control to ProPILOT. As it is not a fully autonomous driving solution, the driver will be required to maintain a presence in the driver’s seat and ready to takeover for the system, but it represents a step change improvement compared to other Nissan vehicles. With that in mind, expect to see ProPILOT making its way into other Nissan vehicles.
ProPILOT can bring the vehicle to a complete stop and resume driving without any input from the driver for an experience that should drastically reduce the strain on drivers during stop-and-go driving. ProPILOT also includes many other active safety features, like: Intelligent Lane Intervention, Lane Departure Warning, Intelligent Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Intelligent Around View Monitor with moving object detection.
Single Pedal Driving with e-Pedal
When ProPILOT can’t be activated, Nissan has designed its new e-Pedal system to make single-pedal driving a reality in the new LEAF. e-Pedal allows a driver to use the accelerator pedal to accelerate as normal by depressing the pedal, but it changes the behavior of the pedal as it is released, gradually applying a stiff regenerative effect to slow the vehicle as if it were braking. Nissan believes that its intelligent implementation of this system will allow drivers to perform more than 90% of driving with just one pedal.
Overall, the new LEAF is a game changer for Nissan, with nearly 3 times the range of the first-generation LEAF, a more mainstream design that is sure to appeal to a larger segment of consumers, and autonomous driving technologies that will make driving safer and easier for drivers. Offering these step change improvements at a price point under $30,000 USD makes the new LEAF extremely competitive compared to its peer group and feels like a great spot compared to the new Tesla Model 3 as a lower-priced alternative with more range.
Chevy is surely not excited about the news, as the base price of the new LEAF undercuts the base price of the Chevy Bolt by a staggering $7,500 while offering autonomous driving features that simply aren’t available in the Bolt. Looking to the future, the LEAF sets a very high bar for other automotive manufacturers looking to compete in the $30,000 electric vehicle market.