Published on April 29th, 2014 | by James Ayre


Nissan Likely To Offer Longer Range LEAFs Within A Few Years

April 29th, 2014 by  

Good news! Those of you who love the Nissan LEAF (whether you own/lease one or not), but still wish that it had more range, may soon be getting your wish!

Well, not that soon really… But relatively soon… While nothing has been confirmed for sure, and nothing is yet set in stone, it is looking increasingly likely that a longer-range Nissan LEAF will be released before the end of 2016 or 2017.

Image Credit: Nissan

Most recently — in an interview last week at the New York Auto Show — Nissan executive Andy Palmer stated that the idea of offering multiple battery-pack options with different ranges was currently the subject of fierce debate internally at the company,

Green Car Reports notes:

In general, auto executives rarely discuss future powertrain offerings unless the technology being described is already on the way. And it’s notable that Nissan surveyed Leaf owners early this year, asking them how much more they would pay for a Leaf with a 150-mile range.

Palmer noted that the Leaf electric car would be on a standard Nissan model cycle of updates every five or six years. But he said the timing of updates was somewhat complicated by the significant updates made to the Leaf for 2013 — just two years into its run — when production for the US market shifted from Japan to Tennessee.

He called the idea of a longer-range Leaf the subject of “intense internal debate,” with some parties feeling that the 2014 Leaf’s rated range of 84 miles was enough for the vast majority of users — and others feeling that more US buyers could be captured with a range in the triple digits.

I’ve got to say, personally, that I tend to think an increased range would in fact be likely to boost the LEAF’s sales. But I can see the other side of the argument as well.

Palmer suggested in his interview that there may end up being “two or even three” battery-pack options available in the future — perhaps “varying by market, where the demand was strongest.”

As far as what the potential range-increases would be, it’s worth noting that, if the currently used 24 kilowatt-hours battery packs were replaced with 36 kWh ones, the max range would likely rest somewhere around 120 to 130 miles per charge. With a 42-kWh pack — which has been mentioned as a possibility casually by at least one North American Nissan executive — would likely increase range up to around 150 miles per charge.

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Erocker

    Just sold my 2011 Leaf. Will not buy another until it has a lot more range.

    • Bob_Wallace

      You made someone happy. Perhaps they’ll wave to you while you’re standing at the pump. ;o)

  • eveee

    A little more range would be good. At 150 miles would be more comfortable. Biggest problem is the cost. GIven all the interest in range, it seems absurd that EVs are built with steel chassis (weight) open wheels and large outside mirrors (aerodynamics) The coefficient of drag for 2013 has been improved to 0.28 (versus the previous 0.29). Range could be improved with better design, even without battery improvements. There are reasons the EV-1 and original Insight had covered rear wheels. It would be a stunning change in the industry if efficiency was considered seriously. Tesla at Cd=0.24, is a lot more like it. “It turns out we were ahead of the pack on that one. Late last month, Tesla joined the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (the trade group for 12 auto companies) in asking the federal safety agency to allow mirror-free cars..”

    • I just don’t get the cost argument. Give buyers options for different size packs and sell the ones people buy, stop selling the ones that don’t sell well. Tesla has shown the way forward, I’m puzzled why pack options are not available already. One size does not fit all.

      • eveee

        Is it an installation difficulty? Is it a market problem? Tesla has shown battery swap technology. One cool application would be to add a big pack for long distance. Don’t know about the logistics of this, or whether it would be a business opportunity. I think the first barrier to different buy options is volume. As EV volume increases, it should be not only a buy option, but an upgrade option after sale. What do you think about the aero drag, efficiency, and purpose design issues of EVs? Only Tesla and BMW have woken to the inefficiency of using steel chassis (heavy) while using expensive, heavy batteries. Steel is cheap, but it displaces batteries when designing for range. Lighter chassis, more battery, more range. Same with aero. EV drivers want range. No sense in retrofitting the electrical components in an inefficient ICE chassis.

  • Benjamin Nead

    EV buyers have been asking for a longer range (larger) batteries in the Leaf for a long time now. Remember, this car was initially marketed to have a 100 mile range back in 2010 and more than a few early adopters didn’t take too kindly to the fact that the actual range came in at around 73 for typical fair weather stop/start city driving.

    An honest (accounting for hilly terrain, cabin control settings to compensate for outside temperature extremes and driving at freeway speeds all at once) 120 miles should bring a LOT more people to EVs like the Leaf. If that translates to 150 in the city under more favorable conditions, that would be fabulous.

  • Ronald Brakels

    I guess the choices going through the heads of Nissan management might be something along the lines of:

    1. Focus on selling the Leaf as the electric town car to get and put decreasing battery costs into lowering its price (while still commanding a premium over new competition thanks to having a proven track record that we earned by being the first mover) and make a different longer range car (perhaps called the Stem) to appeal to a different market segment that wants more range.

    2. Provide range options for the Leaf which will create the impression among many that the Leaf is more expensive than it is because they will be looking at the long range option instead of the shorter range option. And risk losing focus on the market segment that is happy with shorter range and where the largest sales presumably can be made. (Those long distance driving Americans are exceptions by world standards and even those who need a longer range primary vehicle can still find a shorter range Leaf useful as a second car.)

    • I think the primary choice the heads of Nissan execs is “When does the Economic Tesla come out”? “That;s when we’ll release a longer range LEAF.”

      LEAF drivers have asked for battery options for sometime now and heard nothing back, Tesla announce a cheaper car and all of a sudden Nissan start making noises.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think the competition will be good for everyone.

      • Ronald Brakels

        Yes, they may focus on selling lower cost, but shorter range than Tesla E cars, or they may produce something to compete head to head with the Tesla E, whether that is a Leaf with a longer range option or something that isn’t called a Leaf but really is just a longer range Leaf. Currently, Tesla’s battery packs can’t do short range vehicles as while their batteries are no doubt cheaper than Nissan’s they would degrade too quickly if they were cut down to Nissan Leaf size to be practical. But Nissan’s more expensive battery technology can do short range cars while maintaining adequate battery life. So we may see Nissan leaving the longer range segment mostly to Tesla, while specialising in lower cost shorter range vehicles. Now Tesla may soon fix their inability to do short range vehicles, but my impression of Elon Musk is:

        He’s going for distance.
        He’s going for speed.
        Tesla’s out in front
        In fulfilling this need.
        Because he’s racing and pacing and plotting the course,
        He’s fighting and biting and riding his electric horse,
        He’s going for distance.

        • The likes of Toyota, Ford or Kia maybe happy to cede the primary EV market to Tesla and focus on short range and compliance EV’s, I don’t think Nissan are of that mindset. They will compete in some way. How we’ll find out soon enough.

  • James Cooke

    “the 2014 Leaf’s rated range of 84 miles was enough for the vast majority of users”

    There is an oft repeated mistake in the statement above. The range is enough for the vast majority of JOURNEYS, not users.

    Most users will make at least one journey a year over 60 miles, which is all you can safely do in a LEAF without charging along the way, or risking being stranded, because of an unexpected closed road or missed turning. However you’ve got to factor in the return journey, unless you destination charge, so the real range from home base, without any charging is ONLY 30 miles! That barely takes you to the next town in England. This is why electric car sales haven’t taken off yet, not the sticker price of the car. There are plenty of people capable of doing the math and realising how cheap an electric car can be over the long term, there aren’t plenty of people who never venture more than 30 miles from home (in fact I don’t know any).

    • sault

      Yes, cherry-picking the worst-case range of 60 miles is a GREAT way to think of the LEAF. Come on! The REAL reason why sales numbers are at their current level is because NISSAN can’t make them fast enough. Couple this with the fact that most auto dealers are totally clueless about electric vehicles and frequently mislead their customers about them.
      Get over your bias if you want to discuss things logically.

      • Joseph Scott

        When I received my Nissan Leaf it was winter. Thinking the car had a 70 mile range and always getting better than the epa mileage in my other vehicles I assumed I could drive it 55 miles round trip to work. The real range was about 45 miles with no heat and minimal defrost. When spring came I could just barely make the round trip drive. Speed, temperature, wind, elevation, battery degradation and the road surface all affect mileage. Can people get 80 or 100 miles with a Leaf? Yes, but don’t count on it or you might be calling it a Nissan rock as it sits in your driveway totally useless.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Tell us more.

          How cold is cold?

          Are you pre-heating your Leaf before you unplug?

          Why do you think you’re getting so little range in spring temperatures? Massive mountains? Lead boot? Miles of washboard and deep potholes?

          • Joseph Scott

            My test drives were in the range of 20-25 F. As I said I have routinely exceeded the epa mileage in previous vehicles so it is not lead boots. I was not using the heat in the winter and I still don’t although preheating does make the car more comfortable for a few minutes. I don’t have massive mountains but there are elevation changes on my commute. One problem is about a third of my commute is at 65 mph on a two lane road and some is at 55 mph. Another problem is my battery only holds about 220 GIDS compared to a new Leaf with 281 GIDS. I do like the car although it could use better cup holders and a better arm rest on the drivers side and if you don’t need to conserve battery power it is fun to leave people in the dust at traffic lights.

      • James Cooke

        I’m not biased, I have a Leaf and I love it, but leaving some juice in the bottom of the tank for unforseen circumstances means NOT being able to use every last mile out of the 84 mile range. That’s just being sensible in a world where chargers are frequently out of order and traffic/road conditions are unpredictable,. For example I might want to go a route that is 5 miles longer, but doesn’t have a massive queue of cars due to an accident. Winter is a whole different scenario entirely.

  • anderlan

    Do it already. A 65-90 mile car is not a real car. It definitely vitally fills a niche and saves a bunch of money, but it’s not a real car. My gas car has a 12 gallon tank, and when I refill it at E, it’s 10 gallons. That means it has 60 miles of range BELOW EMPTY. I assume cars with larger tanks and fewer MPG than mine have larger ‘reserve’ tank space to give roughly the same below-E range.

    What this means is that range anxiety is BUILT INTO the LEAF and every other non-Tesla EV in the market today. At a bear minimum, Nissan (and the rest) need to release 120 mile cars, or simply twice the typical gas car’s ‘anxious’ range.

    This will be a force multiplier in that fewer long distance DC chargers are needed per customer. They need to be less geographically distributed. The life time of the battery packs is increased (fewer total cycles per 1000 miles). The power output available to the motor (the horsepower of the car) is increased.

    Nissan are idiots if they don’t jump at this. Nissan could steal some of Tesla’s Model E thunder, but if they don’t, Tesla will rightly eat their lunch. I’m not going to actually buy a LEAF instead of leasing as long as the Model E with decent range is on the way, and I think other folks are thinking the same way.

    • Bob_Wallace

      ” A 65-90 mile car is not a real car.”

      Are you kidding?

      The sales of Leafs is growing rapidly. Obviously there are lots of people who find the Leaf to be a real car.

      • anderlan

        It’s different from other cars, and not in a better way. Range is real concern, and prices are now where you can sell a car for under $40k that is not just economically better than other cars, but better all around. I want Nissan to move faster. The idea that increasing range might not increase demand…it’s crazy.

        • sault

          Look, Nissan already got burned in the MY2014 “mini refresh” for the LEAF by the government. The increased range their aerodynamic improvements and cold-weather package achieved totally got wiped out by the battery longevity option on the LEAF that allows you to set the max charge to 80% to maximize battery life. The government took the opportunity to factor that into their range calculations and it cancelled out all the improvements Nissan made. In the real world, people don’t think “well, if I use the battery longevity option EXACTLY how much the government assumes I will, I’ll get the average range it says on the window sticker”. They merely see that range figure and make their purchasing decisions accordingly.
          What I’m trying to say is that it’s almost as if the people doing the fuel economy / range tests have something against electric vehicles. They count charging losses against the range of electrics. They count battery longevity charging options against their range too. And while each of these erroneous moves only shaves off 5 miles of range or so, when range is the greatest limiting factor most people use when deciding to go electric, it is a big deal. It reminds me of the days when the Prius used to get 60mpg in fuel economy tests and then they totally revamped the test to bring down to around 50mpg.
          Long story short, If Nissan comes out and says we’re going to make the LEAD with 120 miles range, the folks doing the fuel economy testing will find some stupid trick to bring that number down enough to make Nissan’s investment look pointless.

        • Bob_Wallace

          It’s different from other cars. (Glad we’re now agreeing that it’s a car.)
          The range is too low for some people. I would guess that it’s adequate for 90% of households with multiple vehicles. One person likely has a commute within the range of the Leaf.

          Increasing range while holding price constant would open the market to a new group of drivers.

          Offering a the same range at a significantly lower price would bring a lot more buyers into the show room.

          (I don’t know what the $40k is about. The Leaf has a MSRP of $28,980.)

          • anderlan

            I was guessing that they could release a 150 mile car at that price and demand would easily meet the supply of a moderate run (half of current LEAF production in the US? maybe 12k?) at that price. They should go lower, but I think the market would easily bear $40k for a 150 mile car at this point, because no car like that yet exists below $70k.

    • Stanley Morris

      It’s a real car for my wife and I, but we do have an SUV, too. We seldom use it, since most of our driving will take less that 70 miles a day. We come home, plug the Leaf in to our 120 volt outlet, and it’s ready to go in the morning. When our lease is over, we are definitely getting another. We go to the Costco gas station about once a month for our SUV. Our lease costs us $235 a month, which is about what we used to pay for gasoline. We have a solar array, so the electric cost is meaningless; we pay the utility hookup fee of $19.00 a month. But note that insurance is higher.

  • JamesWimberley

    In principle battery leasing offers more flexibility on upgrades than outright purchase. But it all depends on the fine print. I would be much more comfortable buying a Leaf if I knew that I could benefit from the quite rapid improvements in battery technology three of four years ahead. Making upgrades easy will land automakers with lots of half-used batteries. However, that’s what houses are for.

    • LookingForward

      I like both ideas a lot.
      Having more flexibility in upgrades, which should be easy if batteries are placed right.
      And using half-used batteries for other purposes like in homes.
      I some electric car execs read this comment, will be great for the industry as whole.

    • Omega Centauri

      I would extend that to plugins. Having a Prius Plugin, which is a very well designed efficient plugin -except for one small detail: a small battery, it would be great to be able to get a battery upgrade at some point. Obviously a battery upgrade also means changes to the battery management system as well, and in many cases upgrade capacity may be contrained by space and/or cooling issues.

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