While most of the media was focused on the 2015 Toyko Auto Show, Nissan snuck a small group of journalists up to its exclusive Advanced Technology Center in Atsugi, Japan, last Friday for a look behind the curtain at some of its pre-concept creations. On the heels of the news we leaked about Nissan increasing the battery size and range of the LEAF over the next few years, the company dropped an absolute bombshell tucked in amongst all its other innovations.
Back in Tokyo, Nissan announced its ITS Concept, which is a futuristic concept car with a whopping 500 km (310 miles) of range (on the Japanese testing system) and advanced autopilot controls. Sounds great if it were on the market today, but futuristic concepts are akin to whiteboards for manufacturers, throwing all their breakthrough ideas onto the floor and seeing which ones stick when they apply them to a physical car. This particular concept, however, looks to have a few tricks up its sleeve that we believe will play out in a car we already know by a different name.
The new IDS is no slouch, rumored to be packed full of advanced sensors that put the Tesla Model S to shame. Bertell Schmitt (the guy who said he’d eat a hat if Tesla unveiled lane-changing autopilot within a year… then changed his mind when Tesla did) goes into more detail in his account:
“The sensoric acuity of the IDS and most likely that of the 2nd gen Leaf, exceeds that of humans, we heard last Friday. The sensor array consists of a forward-looking long range RADAR, combined with a bunch of laser scanners and video cameras, providing the car overlapping 360 degree vision. Again, no specs were released, but from the slide smuggled out of the research building, it looks like the new Leaf will have a much, much better robotic vision than the half-blind Tesla autopilot.”
Earlier in the year, photos of what appeared to be the redesigned 2017 Leaf were leaked, and what’s interesting about that is that those pictures show what is essentially a straight-up lovechild of a crazy weekend affair between its new concept, the IDS, and the current LEAF. Further stirring the pot, Nissan showed off a new 60-kWh battery pack at the ATS, which is packed in what looked to be the same configuration as the current LEAF battery. For those keeping score, this new pack is double the recently announced 2016 30-kWh Leaf which boasts 107 miles per charge. In other words, Nissan has the technology TODAY to produce a LEAF with ~214 miles of range, and it’s done staying quiet about it.
We have heard the rumors hinting at a 200+ mile LEAF for some time, and this seems to confirm that Nissan has cracked the code and fixed the #1 shortcoming of the current generation EV — range. Give the LEAF “normal” range of a gasmobile and why wouldn’t drivers want to hop in, save tons of cash on gas, drive a quieter and more technologically advanced ride,… and might as well save the planet while they’re at it. Sounds like a good buy to me and a goodbye to manufacturers who are still sitting in the bleachers with their gasmobiles waiting for the right time to get up to ask for a dance.
Bertell Schmitt believes we will see the new design and 200-mile range in a Leaf in 2018:
“No date was given for the 2nd gen Leaf, but expect it to arrive some time in 2018. During Friday’s visit in Atsugi, 2018 was way too frequently mentioned to be accidental.”
Mr. Ghosn and team sure are bringing on the tech but is it fast enough to stay ahead of the competition? Only time will tell as the big auto manufacturers battle against established players like Nissan and GM, new startups like Tesla and Karma Automotive, and new faces coming in from tangential markets like Apple and Google. It’s an exciting time to be a geek, that much is for sure!