Nissan just introduced the latest version of its best-selling electric vehicle globally. To celebrate the occasion, we were invited to Tokyo to get up close and personal with the new Leaf.
If it isn’t already clear, electric mobility appears to be the flavour of the month. This was clearly evident at the Frankfurt Motor Show, where every single manufacturer emphasized the importance of electric vehicles, and announced their own plans and strategies to electrify their portfolios in the coming years.
With increased government legislation, and the saddening state of our planets environment, it seems that every stakeholder in the auto industry has decided that electric mobility is going to be its saviour. However, while every car manufacturer is now talking about electric mobility, Nissan has already been at the top of the EV game for the past seven years.
The Mighty Leaf
The Nissan Leaf is the best-selling electric vehicle in the world, with almost 300,000 units sold since its introduction. But, with other companies now catching up, such as Tesla with the Model 3, the Japanese carmaker has been losing its early lead. To combat this onslaught of new and upcoming EVs, Nissan has just launched a more impressive version of the Leaf.
At a mega press conference held in Tokyo, we were introduced to the all-new Nissan Leaf. The new car certainly looks a lot snazzier and cooler than the previous model. But, besides the improved aesthetic appeal, the new Leaf has got some very impressive technology as well.
Ensuring a better driving experience is the 2018 Leaf’s new front mounted e-powertrain that produces an impressive 110kW, or 148bhp, which is 38% more than the first generation car. Nissan has also increased the EV’s torque to 320Nm, which is an increase of 26%.
What’s interesting is that even though the new Leaf comes with a more powerful 40kWh lithium-ion battery, a step up from 30kWh, the battery pack is the same size as before. This improves the driving range to an estimated 400-kilometres under Japanese driving conditions. By using a 3kW charger, the 40kWh battery can be fully charged in 16 hours, or 8 hours by a 6kW hour charger. Like most modern day EVs, the 2018 Leaf’s battery also comes with a quick charge option that helps gain back 80% of its charge in a mere 40 minutes. Nissan will also offer a higher power, longer range version of the Leaf at a higher price in 2018.
After the press conference, we got to stroll around the Nissan Leaf experience area and get a hands-on feel for the new technology. The new Leaf gets ProPilot single-lane autonomous driving technology – the main aim of which is to reduce stress while driving on the highway. After pre-setting the speed by the driver, between 30-100 km/h, the ProPilot automatically controls the distance to the vehicle in front. It can also assist the driver to steer and ensure that the Leaf sticks to its lane.
ProPilot Park is another new feature that has made its debut on the Leaf. With the help of 12 sonar sensors and four cameras, the Leaf can automatically identify an ideal parking space and then safely park itself. All steering, braking and throttle inputs for various parking manoeuvres, such as parallel parking, are automated. So, all the driver has to do is sit back and say goodbye to all his or her parking woes.
The e-Pedal is by far the Leaf’s smartest feature. It’s basically a single pedal that handles starting, accelerating, decelerating, and stopping. This new system also helps in increasing regenerative braking every time you lift off the pedal. Nissan claims the e-Pedal eliminates the need for drivers to constantly move their foot from the accelerator to the brake pedal to slow down or come to a stop. This helps reduce fatigue and increase enjoyment.
To the future
The new Leaf may be a technological marvel, but there’s no telling how its sales will be affected by the up and coming EVs from other carmakers. We got to sit down with their senior management, as well as a few engineers, to discuss the future of Nissan’s electric mobility plans.
Like every other car manufacturer, Nissan believes that electric mobility is the future – and they’re dedicating a large amount of their time and R&D into EVs. We can also confirm that the Nissan Leaf will soon undergo significant testing in India, because Nissan believes that emerging markets will play a big role in the transition from gas powered cars to EVs.
We also got to visit Nissan’s Oppama manufacturing facility, where the Leaf and a few other models are assembled. What’s interesting to note is that the Leaf can share the same assembly line as other gas powered machines, which means that Nissan is integrating EV vehicle assembly with its other models. This is an important step, because when EV sales gain more traction Nissan can respond quickly to cater to the increased demand. There’s no denying that EVs are changing the auto industry as we know it. It’s a revolution, and one that Nissan seems to be spearheading..