Nissan’s Next-Gen Leaf Drives Farther, Thinks Deeper

The original mass-market electric car now offers more range—and more smarts

2 min read
Nissan Motor Co's revamped Leaf electric vehicle is displayed at the Makuhari Messe on September 6, 2017 in Chiba, Japan
Photo: The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images

Nissan was the first big car maker to offer an all-electric car and the first to give driverless technology its full commitment (as boldly asserted by then-CEO Carlos Ghosn). But this year Tesla and Chevrolet invaded the company’s niche by offering electric cars at comparable prices but with superior range and self-driving features.

The new Leaf answers all these challenges. Still, it can no longer claim to be the firstest with the mostest.

It was indeed first when it introduced the Leaf, back in 2010. True, Tesla had begun selling the all-electric Roadster two years earlier, but at US $100,000 that car was more in the way of a proof of principle. Nissan’s Leaf cost around US $35,000. And, with the continuing evolution of Nissan’s ProPilot driver-assistance package, the company has always been high up in the robocar peloton.

But Tesla’s new Model 3 costs no more yet can go some 350 kilometers (220 miles) on a charge. And the Chevrolet Bolt—also in the mid-$30k price range—goes a whopping 380 km. Both the Model 3 and the Bolt offer a suite of self-driving features, albeit some of the coolest ones come only as options.

The new Leaf has a battery pack rated at 40 kilowatt-hours, up from 30 kWh. That’ll take you a solid 240 kilometers (150 miles)—enough, Nissan says, to quell the range anxiety of customers in Asia and Europe. A performance version, due out in early 2018, will have 60 kWh and travel 480 km (300 miles), which ought to assuage the anxieties of American drivers.

The updated Leaf also offers a more ambitious edition of ProPilot, its answer to Tesla’s AutoPilot. The system can take over the entire job of parking and of driving in slow, bumper-to-bumper traffic and along single-lane roads. And in the Leaf all these features are standard.

And there’s one thing that no other company does: single-pedal driving. Press down and the car accelerates; lift your foot and it brakes. According to Automotive News, it’s an improved form of a similar system in the Nissan Note e-Power, a hybrid vehicle sold in Japan.

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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