New 2018 Nissan Leaf revealed with big increase in range
This is the all-new, second-generation Nissan Leaf and it will “make drivers feel more confident, excited and connected”, according to the Japanese brand.
It has a tough act to follow, because the Mk1 was the first mass-market EV, shifting more than 283,000 units in seven years.
The latest all-electric family hatch has a wealth of advanced new tech, grouped under the banner of “Nissan Intelligent Mobility”. Auto Express went behind the scenes to find out more.
Three pillars underpin this, the first of which is called Intelligent Driving. By far the biggest advance for the Leaf comes in the form of Nissan’s e-Pedal. This switchable system increases the regenerative braking when you lift off the accelerator to 0.2g, or around four times more than regular engine braking in a petrol or diesel car. It means you can deal with 90 per cent of driving using just the accelerator, Nissan claims.
Nissan’s ProPilot autonomous system is also part of the Intelligent Driving technology fitted to the car. It works on motorways, taking the demand off the driver in queuing traffic at up to 89mph.
However, as the level of autonomy in cars increases over the coming years, so the system can be adapted. Nissan plans to add stage-two autonomous driving (multi-lane capability on the motorway) by 2018, with a target that the system will eventually be able to negotiate city traffic from 2020.
ProPilot Park – a new set-up making its debut on the Leaf – means the car can manoeuvre itself into pretty much any space using its combination of 12 sonar sensors and four cameras.
Nissan’s second pillar of innovation – called Intelligent Power – covers the car’s battery pack and electric motor. As with its predecessor, the new Leaf will be offered with a choice of two battery packs.
The standard version uses a new 40kWh lithium-ion battery, up from the 30kWh of the outgoing model. The battery pack is the same physical size as the unit in the original Leaf but is more energy-dense, improving range to a claimed 235 miles.
That’s over 50 per cent further than the current car, but the recharging time remains the same, at around 40 minutes for an 80 per cent fast charge. This battery will take around eight hours for a full top-up from a normal 7kW charger.
The front-mounted motor produces 110kW, or 148bhp, up from the outgoing car’s 80kW or 108bhp. This helps reduce the 0-62mph time by 15 per cent, so the new Leaf should cover the 0-62mph sprint in around 9.8 seconds.
There will be a higher-capacity battery available in a more powerful variant, too. Nissan tells us this will be offered a year to 18 months after the new Leaf’s launch, and that it will give the car a range of more than 310 miles when it arrives.
For the first time, this higher-capacity, physically larger battery will also be teamed with a more powerful electric motor, although Nissan has yet to reveal exactly how much extra power this version will have over the standard car.
A new power-management processor is twice as fast as the old one, meaning even sharper response to the accelerator pedal. Add in the more powerful motor and the direct cooling for the inverter, and it means the new Leaf is a full 30 per cent faster from 60 to 100km/h (37 to 62mph).
To improve efficiency, the body has been redesigned with a flat floor, sharper nose and more aggressively tapered rear. Nissan’s trademark V-motion grille, boomerang lights and kicked-up rear shoulder line mean it also looks more conventional, to appeal to more buyers.
The new form has a drag coefficient of 0.27. This makes it quieter on the move – so quiet, in fact, that Nissan claims it’s nearly as refined as some executive saloons such as the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class. It’s more practical, too, because boot space increases from 370 litres to 435 litres.
Under the new skin, the torsional rigidity of the Leaf’s body is up by 15 per cent, while the car also gets Active Ride Control and Active Trace Control systems.
Nissan claims the Mk2 feels more natural to drive than the first-generation car, and you can read our first impressions from behind the wheel here.
The final pillar is Intelligent Integration. With the new Leaf, Nissan is pushing the connected aspects of the car, and while this means new vehicle-to-home facilities to help distribute electricity back to the grid when it’s needed, the bigger benefit to most owners will be the connectivity inside.
There’s a new seven-inch touchscreen that will feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus the cabin has been redesigned to improve ergonomics. The car we explored during an event at Nissan HQ in Japan was still a prototype, but we were told interior quality would be much improved over its predecessor.
Q&A with Hiroki Isobe
Chief vehicle engineer, Nissan Leaf
We sat down with the man behind Nissan’s second-generation Leaf to discuss the brand’s aims for the car.
Q: What does the new Leaf have to achieve for Nissan?
A: “This car has to move EVs from early adopters into the mainstream and we’re doing that by making this a more emotional, more enjoyable car to drive.”
Q: How do you inject emotion into a car where one of the biggest elements you have a connection with has been removed?
A: “We wanted to make the new Leaf more fun and the emotion comes from the one-pedal driving and the even quicker responses from the powertrain. I think this one-pedal operation is a kind of evolution – from manual to automatic to this. The low centre of gravity helps handling, too, while the e-plus model will boost this.”
Q: How different is the battery in the e-plus model?
A: “It’s larger than the standard battery and the cells and structure are also different. It means the e-plus will be lower and have less ground clearance.”
Q: Can we expect wireless charging on the new Leaf?
A: “The car hasn’t been prepared for wireless charging because this would require optimisation on the infrastructure and vehicle side. It’s difficult to say when this will be viable on the Leaf.”
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September 5, 2017 at 09:09PM