By Allen Penticoff
Earlier this month Nissan revealed its updated Leaf electric vehicle (EV). While not yet available in the United States, it is expected soon. Nissan has sold over 270,000 Leafs so far, making it the most popular and most widely produced EV on the market. Early adopters were content with its meager range and funky frog styling.
The 2018 Leaf will feature a bigger motor and larger 40 kWh capacity battery pack, thus increasing the range to 150 miles from the previous 100 miles. The 147-horsepower motor should yield 0-60 mph times of about 8 seconds – speedy enough for most folks, but well off its pricier competitor, Chevy Bolt’s 0-60 of 6.5 seconds.
Nissan is not planning to join the 200-mile range club until the 2019 model. There is a good reason for this. With a smaller battery and foregoing a battery cooling system, the base Leaf at $30,875 can be priced $6,600 less than the base Bolt and about $5,000 less than the Tesla Model 3. Since most folks drive EVs almost exclusively in urban trips, the old Leaf’s 100-mile range was plenty, so the extra 50 miles provides some peace of mind rather than extending your trip radius much. Direct DC charging is an available $1,200 option ($750 on the Bolt). I would not buy the direct DC charger unless I knew I could use it. Most EV owners go about their business exclusively with their nightly at home charge.
The new Leaf has welcome styling changes on essentially the old chassis platform. It will not be competing well against the tighter handling Bolt in autocross, but most folks don’t care. The old styling was a turnoff for many (including myself) so this change alone should boost sales. The 2018 Leaf has some features that at present give it advantages over the Bolt. One is their “e-Pedal.” This is basically more aggressive regenerative braking (0.2g) that can stop the vehicle without touching the brake pedal. This is becoming known as “one pedal driving.” It will stop and hold on hills without touching the brake as well (the Bolt can do this too once the brake pedal is touched if there is a bit of rollback) then you can have your feet on the floor until the light changes.
Nissan also included adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking in the new Leaf, both nice features. In stop and go traffic this is nearly like an autopilot, without the steering part. It is claimed that if you just use e-Pedal to slow, and it is not quite enough, the automatic braking will slow you to a safe stop.
The toughest thing about the new Leaf will be finding one. American new car dealers have yet to embrace the whole EV concept despite the manufacturers proceeding full steam ahead with innovative EV designs. With our extraordinarily low gasoline prices, American consumers prefer the comforts of an SUV over the economy and low operating costs of an EV. Other world markets, particularly China, are more fully embracing the predominate use of electric vehicles as national goals. We would do well to imitate them. R.