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.

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.