The Nissan LEAF is a pretty good car. It has all the features that people like about electric cars. It’s roomy, comfortable, reliable, fun, and economical. It is the best-selling electric car in the history of the world. And yet, it’s range is just too short to suit many drivers.
Make that the perceived needs of many drivers. The current base-model LEAF can only go about 80 miles before it needs to be recharged. Since most people add a mental fudge factor of about 20%, the practical range for the car is around 60 miles. After that, or approaching that, people start to experience the dreaded range anxiety.
Nissan now offers the LEAF with a larger 30 kWh battery that is good for 107 miles of range, but that is still short of what many people consider necessary before they decide to spend their own money to buy an electric car. There seems to be a expectation in the marketplace that an electric car needs at least 200 miles of range before ordinary drivers will consider trading in their conventional cars for electrics.
All Teslas have at least 200 miles of range. The top of the line Model S 90D is now rated at a tick over 300 miles. The base model of the upcoming Model 3 will go 215 miles between charges, the company says. The Chevy Bolt due in showrooms by the end of this year will feature 200 miles or more of range.
If you want to sell electric cars today, especially in the US, where people typically drive further than people in other countries, you better be able to tell customers they can have 200 miles of range if you want to have any hope of selling them in quantity.
Do people really need 200 miles of range? Not really. Statistics show the average American drives fewer than 40 miles a day. Since electric cars start each day with fully charged batteries after being plugged in overnight, the Nissan LEAF should have more than enough range for most people. But perception is reality. The perception is that we need 200 miles of range. Throwing statistics at people won’t change very many minds.
This past week, Autoblog Green spoke with Kazuo Yajima, Nissan’s global director of EV and HEV engineering at an electric vehicle conference in Montreal. Yajima confirmed that a LEAF with a 60 kWh battery is on the way. “It’s coming,” he said. “I’m sorry I cannot say when.” A 60 kWh battery pack should give the LEAF 210 to 220 miles of range. “In the near future, I believe, we can produce an electric vehicle that doesn’t have any driving range problem,” he said.
The next question is when Nissan will update the styling of the LEAF. The current car has been on sale since 2010. Never a lovely design, it is definitely starting to look dated today. Nissan showed off its IDS concept last fall, a design laden with fairly heavy-handed design touches.
For some time, the rumor has been that the second generation will go on sale in 2018. By then, it will have stiff competition from the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3. The first-generation LEAF was a decent car. It was sort of a two-base hit kind of vehicle. But if it is going to go head to head with Chevrolet and Tesla, the second-generation LEAF will have to be at least a home run. The Tesla Model 3 looks like it is going to be a grand slam.
Source: Autoblog | Image credit: Nissan