Nis­san in­jects sporty cues into its lat­est Leaf to reel in younger buy­ers

Nis­san’s ded­i­cated all-elec­tric car gets more power and dou­ble the driv­ing range of its pi­o­neer­ing pre­de­ces­sor.

Bangkok Post - - BUSINESS - By Richard Leu

It­doesn’t look as gawky as be­fore… That was prob­a­bly one of the mis­sions of Nis­san de­sign­ers when de­vel­op­ing the sec­ond-generation Leaf, seen here in of­fi­cial pic­tures handed out this week.

As Nis­san is try­ing to in­ject some sporty cues into the new Leaf — the pre­de­ces­sor some­how failed to at­tract the young — the car has been made longer and wider but lower by mar­gins of 15mm, 20mm and 10mm ac­cord­ingly. The ex­te­rior de­sign was in­spired by the ID Con­cept.

The wheel­base length of 2,700mm is the same as be­fore, due to a car­ried-over plat­form. But the floor plan has been re­jigged to ac­com­mo­date var­i­ous elec­tri­cal bits in more ideal po­si­tions for bet­ter pack­ag­ing and driv­ing dy­nam­ics.

The cabin fea­tures the usual hatch­back seat­ing lay­out and ver­sa­til­ity, plus a new 7-inch TFT screen to op­er­ate var­i­ous func­tions. The steer­ing wheel is sim­i­lar to those in Nis­san’s other B-seg­ment hatch­backs like the Note.

How has the Leaf evolved tech­ni­cally?

While the ba­sic for­mula re­mains the same — draw­ing en­ergy from the socket, stor­ing it in a bat­tery, us­ing it to power an elec­tric mo­tor to drive the car — the Leaf has gained a new high-den­sity lithium-ion bat­tery pack to al­low for more per­for­mance and driv­ing range at the same time.

Max­i­mum power has been raised to 150hp, some 20-40hp greater than be­fore, de­pend­ing on the bat­tery size of the pre­de­ces­sor. And with 320Nm of torque avail­able from stand­still, the Leaf can hit 100kph from stand­still in about eight sec­onds, more than three sec­onds faster than be­fore.

Nis­san says the new Leaf has a tour­ing range of 400km un­der Ja­pan’s JC08 driv­ing mode. Of course, other coun­tries have less op­ti­mistic driv­ing cy­cles. But af­ter some cal­cu­la­tions here and there, it’s safe to as­sume that the driv­ing range has prac­ti­cally dou­bled that of the first-gen model. This is one of the key mes­sages that Nis­san has been try­ing to con­vey in a mar­ket full of new play­ers going EV.

A quick recharg­ing sys­tem lets the Leaf get 80% of its juice within 40 min­utes, ac­cord­ing to Nis­san, while the min­i­mum time with the con­ven­tional method is eight hours.

New fea­tures to en­hance driv­ing in­clude an e-pedal that aims to pro­mote one-pedal driv­ing. Ca­pa­ble of be­ing switched off by the driver, the sys­tem ap­plies mild brak­ing when the driver lifts off the throt­tle — some­thing that can al­ready be found in other EVs like the BMW i3.

Ad­di­tional fea­tures in­clude ProPilot driver-as­sist tech­nolo­gies that not only make park­ing a dod­dle, but also let the car ac­cel­er­ate, brake and change lanes on high­ways by it­self.

When does it go on sale?

It’s quite dif­fi­cult to say for Thai­land. Al­though an at­trac­tive tax rate and some in­dus­trial priv­i­leges have al­ready been put in place by the gov­ern­ment, the charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture for EV mo­torists barely ex­ists.

Mak­ers of small-sell­ing luxury EVs may not ac­tu­ally be both­ered by that fact, but it surely con­cerns mass-mar­ket brands that need to make EVs in large num­bers to jus­tify their Thai in­vest­ments.

In the mean­time, Nis­san will be widen­ing its EV se­lec­tion based on the Leaf in the com­ing months and years for global mar­kets. Af­ter going on sale in hatch­back form later this year, an SUV body is set to join the range and is re­port­edly to be pre­viewed as a con­cept car at Oc­to­ber’s Tokyo mo­tor show.

Volkswagen is an­other brand that has hinted at a multi-body strat­egy for its new EV fam­ily. Hatch­back, MPV and SUV body styles have al­ready been pre­viewed with the ID ban­ner. A sedan ver­sion is set to ap­pear in Frank­furt next week.

And now that BMW is of­fer­ing a go-faster model of the i3 called i3s, Nis­san is pre­par­ing an E-Plus ver­sion of the new Leaf next year. Kit­ted body parts from Nismo are also in the pipe­line be­cause they help grab the at­ten­tion of younger buy­ers.

The steer­ing wheel is sim­i­lar to those in Nis­san’s other B-seg­ment hatch­backs. The most op­ti­mistic tour­ing range for the Leaf is 400 kilo­me­tres.

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