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Nissan Leaf ‘on hiatus’, back by 2019

Green machine: The current-generation Nissan Leaf went on sale in 2013 and since then more than 600 have found homes across Australia.

All-new Nissan Leaf aims for double driving distance to ease range anxiety

Nissan logo8 May 2017

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

NISSAN Australia has revealed that it has stopped selling the Leaf electric vehicle for now, but the nameplate will return by about 2019 in its second generation that should leapfrogs its predecessor in key areas.

Slated for a world debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September, the significantly lighter newcomer is expected to double the driving range of the current model to about 300km, which helps to address range anxiety issues that prevent some buyers from looking at EVs in Australia.

The 2019 Leaf is expected to have an improved driving experience, and better packaging than the outgoing seven-year old model.

“There is lots of work being done on next-generation Leaf, and it’s certainly on our plan,” according to Nissan Australia managing director and CEO, Richard Emery.

Speaking to GoAuto at the media launch of the X-Trail in Melbourne, Mr Emery said that Nissan was committed to providing EV leadership for the masses – even if it takes another decade – with a vehicle that better meets the needs of Australian consumers.

“We have every intention to continue with the Leaf business,” he revealed. “We’re in the fallow period between the models. But Leaf is very much on our agenda when it comes to market. And our understanding of the new car is really positive as to what it will bring to bear.” While the original Leaf employed a 24kWh lithium-ion battery pack to achieve up 170km of range, the 2019 version is expected to switch to a variation of the 60kWh lithium-ion battery pack that Nissan showcased in the IDS Concept at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show.

That also means that the Leaf’s urban performance should increase dramatically, underpinned by an evolved unique EV platform that is said to be less weighty than the hefty 1795kg of the outgoing version thanks to an increase in lighter materials such as carbon-fibre, as well as stronger, benefiting steering, ride and handling characteristics.

The performance and dynamic upgrades are partly as a result of the success that Tesla has enjoyed with the Model S in luring keener drivers to the fold. This has reportedly spurred Nissan’s engineers on to improve the next-generation vehicle.

That same thinking should lead to a Leaf with sleeker and more aerodynamic styling than the existing iteration that first broke cover in 2010. Influenced in part by the aforementioned IDS Concept, the production version is believed to feature a so-called ‘floating roof’ blacked-out C-pillar treatment, more aggressive nose with the brand-identifying ‘V-motion’ grille, and ‘L’ shaped tail-lights.

Additionally, the slightly larger and longer body, combined with more efficient packaging of the battery and related electrical technologies, should lead to a roomier and more practical cabin, particularly in terms of cargo capacity and usability.

Furthermore, a big jump in semi-autonomous driver-assist tech will be available on some models sometime after launch under Nissan’s ProPILOT system.

At the other end of the price scale, Mr Emery hopes Australian consumers will eventually recognise Nissan’s efforts in pioneering accessible emissions-free vehicles in this country.

“We believe we did the hard yards with electric cars in the beginning,” he said.

“Electric cars and zero emissions remains a strong driver for the business and the brand, and even though we didn’t make any money out of it with our small volumes, we think the market will move to a greater acceptance of electric cars.

“I just want to make sure that when that happens, people will say ‘Nissan has been at that for 10 years or 15 years’ rather than us having to regenerate ourselves as an electric car company. We want to stay at the forefront. Not driven by the volume or profits, it’s about us being at the forefront of zero emission technologies in an Australian market context.” Since its June 2012 release, there have been just 614 Leaf registrations in Australia, with only 40 sold in 2016. At the launch, the company had hoped to find at least 300 sales annually, but 2013’s 188 tally was the best Nissan could muster.

Even a price drop from $51,500 to $39,990 driveaway a year later failed to arrest the slide.

A Nissan spokesman said that low fuel prices as well as high range anxiety were the main stumbling blocks in the Leaf achieving greater acceptance in Australia during this period.

Ironically, the slow take-off dissuaded Nissan to import a 2015 Leaf upgrade that saw a new 30kWh battery pack output increase for a circa-50km range boost.

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