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Future models - Nissan - Leaf

First look: New-generation Nissan Leaf revealed

Green machine: The new-gen Leaf has an EV driving range of 400km, well above the outgoing Australian-spec model’s 170km figure.

Battery and electric motor boost headlines second-generation Nissan Leaf EV

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Nissan logo6 Sep 2017

By DANIEL DEGASPERI

THE second-generation Nissan Leaf was unveiled in Tokyo this morning, with the new electric hatchback expected to land in Australia in late 2018 boasting 38 per cent more power, 26 per cent extra torque and more than twice the single-charge driving range compared with its predecessor.

A new electric motor now delivers 110kW of power and 320Nm of torque, up from 80kW/280Nm, which will make for a faster Leaf than before given that kerb weight has remained steady at 1490kg.

Nissan’s latest electric vehicle mainstay has also held onto its basic footprint – its body is only 35mm longer at 4445mm, 20mm wider at 1770mm and 10mm taller at 1550mm – however the company has squeezed a 40kWh lithium-ion battery pack into the same space as the outgoing 24kWh assembly.

According to official local testing, the new model can deliver 400km of range between recharges, which has soared from the 170km of the outgoing model that was sold in Australia, while the Japanese car-maker has also confirmed that another Leaf model grade will soon be revealed with an even greater range at a different price point.

Nissan has spruiked the 16kWh boost, which equates to a 67 per cent increase compared with the original model and the version last sold in Australia, as owing to advancements in the efficiency of battery cell structures.

That said, other markets had already received a 30kWh version of the Leaf with a 250km range that missed our shores.

Nissan Australia corporate communications general manager Karla Leach also revealed that “Australia has an important role to play in the new Leaf”, with the Nissan Casting Australia Plant in Dandenong, Victoria, winning the bid to produce drivetrain components for the Japanese-built EV.

“The Leaf contains two components produced in Australia – the water jacket cover and lid,” Ms Leach said.

“These components are stamped with a small kangaroo – so a small piece of Australian engineering knowhow and manufacturing excellence (will feature) in every vehicle.”

While Renault-Nissan chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn has indicated that EV models would not become mainstream without government subsidies and incentives – a situation impeding their take-up in Australia – Ms Leach said Nissan would still offer the Leaf here.

“The success of EVs overseas has been driven by both government investment and charging infrastructure support,” she said.

“Australia still has a way to go with regards to development in these areas, but once this commences we will start to see the purchase of EVs grow quite strongly.”

Although Ms Leach said Nissan Australia had “no further commitments regarding infrastructure development” to make, she added that the local arm of the Japanese brand was in talks with third parties over the issue.

“We are meeting with various groups including government agencies, energy providers and other special interest groups who are keen to support the take-up of EVs in Australia,” she said.

Given the Leaf was being launched in 49 global markets, Ms Leach said: “At this stage it appears it will arrive in Australia around late 2018 – but this is still to be confirmed.”

Pricing is also still to be confirmed. The previous Leaf kicked off at $51,500 plus on-road costs when it launched locally in early 2011, but this was reduced to a permanent $39,990 driveaway by mid-2013.

Asked if this latter figure could be maintained or improved for the new Leaf, Ms Leach replied: “It’s too early to confirm pricing. This will be locked in closer to local launch.”

Unveiling the redesigned Leaf in Tokyo, Nissan nominated three core aspects of improvement with the new model behind the banner of ‘Nissan Intelligent Mobility’ – Nissan Intelligent Driving, Nissan Intelligent Power and Nissan Intelligent Integration.

A system dubbed ProPilot marks the next step towards autonomous driving, with an advanced active cruise control system able to work between 30km/h and 100km/h to help keep the Leaf lane-centred. It can also bring the vehicle to a halt and, with the touch of the accelerator pedal, become active again.

Four high-resolution cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors can further engage the ProPilot park function that can position the Leaf in a parallel or perpendicular spot without the driver using the steering wheel, brakes or accelerator.

Nissan has already divulged details of its e-pedal system, which it says allows the driver to bring the vehicle to a stop by only lifting the accelerator for 90 per cent of driving, as it can deploy 0.2G of deceleration once the throttle is released.

The Leaf has also gained autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure warning and lane-keep assistance, a blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, around-view monitor and traffic sign recognition as part of its active safety rollcall.

An enhanced chassis – riding on the same 2700mm wheelbase as before – aims to deliver increased stability, with Nissan claiming that having an underfloor battery pack in the centre of the vehicle results in smaller yaw movements of inertia compared with a front-engined petrol or diesel vehicle.

Steering torsional stiffness has been increased by 10 per cent, with a software upgrade and new control logic working with the steering angle sensor to help target a more linear feel and greater feedback from the road surface than before.

Urethane rear suspension bump stops have also been replaced by a rubber variety with a focus on delivering improved shock absorption on uneven roads, while greater insulation from the electric motor and targeted aerodynamics – resulting in a 0.28Cd rating – are said to have delivered improved quietness.

Nissan says it made an effort to turn a slippery frame into a sexier body, with the new Leaf inspired by the IDS concept shown at the 2015 Tokyo motor show, and following other models with a ‘V-motion’ grille with boomerang-shaped headlight bezels.

A grille-insert material described as a clear-blue 3D mesh pattern is designed to separate the Leaf from those other models, while combination tail-lights and a spoiler integrated into the rear window graphic have been nominated by the company as helping deliver a more dynamic appearance than before.

A similar theme has been carried over inside, which takes on a ‘gliding wing’ design motif that Nissan says avoids excessive decoration.

Blue stitching adorns the seats, door trims and leather-trimmed steering wheel, and complements the push-button start and gearknob, while a combination of matte-chrome steering wheel inserts and matte- and gloss-black trim around the climate controls and air vents have targeted a more premium feel.

The analogue speedometer is flanked by a 7.0-inch TFT screen, while the centre screen can house, in addition to phone/audio/satellite navigation functions, newly added Apple CarPlay as well as an upgraded NissanConnect system – which can now integrate with a smartphone app to preheat or precool the vehicle, check battery range, find charging stations and monitor recharge status.

In the Leaf, NissanConnect introduces vehicle-to-grid communication functions as well as vehicle-to-home monitoring, which can, in applicable countries, communicate with the power grid to manage energy demand, and in the latter case help power a home at night if required.

Nissan says that depending on the power source it would take between eight and 16 hours to fully recharge the Leaf, but a fast-charge outlet can help deliver 80 per cent battery capacity from a low reading in as little as 40 minutes.

Australian sales of the Leaf peaked in 2013 when 188 vehicles were sold, dropping to 173 in 2014, 136 in 2015 and 42 in 2014 – its last full year on sale.

Globally the model has been a success, with the Leaf eclipsing 200,000 sales by early 2016. In 2014 it became Europe’s top-selling EV for the fourth year in a row, holding a 26 per cent EV market share ahead of the Renault Zoe (20%), Tesla Model S (15%), BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Up (10% each) and e-Golf (6%).

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