2018’s Top 10 Tech Cars: Nissan Leaf

The best-selling EV gets more range and power

2 min read
Photo: Nissan
Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf The Leaf can charge from a solar-powered home system; it can give back to the grid during peak hours as well. Photo: Nissan

Give Nissan credit: The first-generation Leaf has been the world’s best-selling electric car, with more than 300,000 buyers—even if the EV market remains tiny, at just 0.5 percent of the global total. But now other affordable EVs are bringing vastly superior range and performance, namely the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3. So Nissan has anted up with a greatly improved 2018 Leaf, even if its 240-kilometer (150-mile) range falls well short of the Bolt’s 383 km or the Tesla’s 362.

This Year’s
Winning Autos

The new hatchback Leaf looks far more appealing than the frog-faced original. Subtle ribs on the hood divert air around the side mirrors, reducing wind noise, which can become especially noticeable in an otherwise hushed EV. A new electric motor spools up 110 kilowatts (147 horsepower), up from just 80 kW before, with a healthy 320 newton meters (236 foot-pounds) of torque. A 40-kilowatt-hour battery pack outdoes the 24-kWh storage of the original Leaf, yet because of the tumbling price of batteries, Nissan was still able to cut the car’s base price to US $30,875 in the United States, versus the Tesla’s $36,200 and the Bolt’s $37,495. By late 2018, Nissan promises to release a pricier Leaf SL whose upsized 60-kWh battery will precisely match the Bolt’s storage, and boost range to about 362 km (225 miles).

Buyers in Japan are even more fortunate. Nissan is offering some owners free installation of a solar array for zero-cost, zero-emission home charging. The Leaf also allows a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) connection, so owners can reduce electricity bills by powering their homes during peak hours from the Leaf’s battery.

MOTOR

110 kilowatts

RANGE

240 km

PRICE

US $30,875

The Leaf also refines the “one-pedal” driving that many EV fans love: Just lift your foot off the gas and the regenerative brakes bring the car to a complete stop, with no need to even brush the brake pedal, as many EVs require. Nissan’s new ProPilot Assist offers modest semiautonomy as well. Using a forwardfacing camera and radar, the system’s software does an especially good job at automatically centering the Nissan in its lane, without ping-ponging between lane markers, as some systems do.

Unfortunately, Nissan has stuck with its CHAdeMO plug for DC fast charging, a weirdly named standard that’s been left for dead outside of Japan by both the SAE International’s elegant combo plug (adopted by most every U.S. and European EV maker) and Tesla’s own proprietary Superchargers. That stubborn misstep aside, the Leaf’s unbeatable price and heightened range and power give it a fighting chance to maintain its top-selling status—especially if Tesla keeps struggling to get Model 3s out of the factory and into the hands of impatient buyers.

The Conversation (0)

China Aims for a Permanent Moon Base in the 2030s

Lunar megaproject to be a stepping-stone to the solar system

6 min read
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

On 3 January 2019, the Chinese spacecraft Chang'e-4 descended toward the moon. Countless craters came into view as the lander approached the surface, the fractal nature of the footage providing no sense of altitude. Su Yan, responsible for data reception for the landing at Miyun ground station, in Beijing, was waiting—nervously and in silence with her team—for vital signals indicating that optical, laser, and microwave sensors had combined effectively with rocket engines for a soft landing. "When the [spectral signals were] clearly visible, everyone cheered enthusiastically. Years of hard work had paid off in the most sweet way," Su recalls.

Chang'e-4 had, with the help of a relay satellite out beyond the moon, made an unprecedented landing on the always-hidden lunar far side. China's space program, long trailing in the footsteps of the U.S. and Soviet (now Russian) programs, had registered an international first. The landing also prefigured grander Chinese lunar ambitions.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

Air Quality: Easy to Measure, Tough to Fix

Wildfire season shows the limits of air purifiers

3 min read
Harry Campbell

Illustration of a phone with with a sensor on top. Harry Campbell

The summer of 2020 brought wildfire to Portland, Ore., as it did to so many other cities across the world. All outdoor activity in my neighborhood ceased for weeks, yet staying indoors didn't guarantee relief. The worst days left me woozy as my lone air purifier, whirring like a jet engine, failed to keep up.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

NYU Researchers Pave the Way for Future Shared Mobility

The C2SMART Center at NYU is tackling the most pressing issues in urban transportation

5 min read

NYU researchers led by civil and urban engineering professor Joseph Chow are working in the area of micromobility, a category of transit that includes electric bicycles and scooters, which has grown in popularity in cities around the world.

Shutterstock

This article is sponsored by NYU Tandon School of Engineering.

The collection of technologies and markets that comprise so-called "shared mobility" now constitutes a $60 billion market, according to some estimates. This enormous growth has at least in part been driven by the aim of reducing vehicle carbon emissions to address climate change concerns.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

Trending Stories

The most-read stories on IEEE Spectrum right now