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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Chinese Joint Venture Will Begin Mass-Producing an Autonomous Electric Car

With the Robo-01, Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely aim for a fully self-driving car

4 min read
A black car sits against a white backdrop decorated with Chinese writing. The car’s doors are open, like a butterfly’s wings. Two charging stations are on the car’s left; two men stand on the right.

The Robo-01 autonomous electric car shows off its butterfly doors at a reveal to the media in Beijing, in June 2022.

Tingshu Wang/Reuters/Alamy

In October, a startup called Jidu Automotive, backed by Chinese AI giant Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely, officially released an autonomous electric car, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition. In 2023, the car will go on sale.

At roughly US $55,000, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition is a limited edition, cobranded with China’s Lunar Exploration Project. It has two lidars, a 5-millimeter-wave radars, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and 12 high-definition cameras. It is the first vehicle to offer on-board, AI-assisted voice recognition, with voice response speeds within 700 milliseconds, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8295 chip.

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