After many delays and years of waiting that would flush Tesla’s cheeks in embarrassment, the 60kWh Nissan LEAF (“LEAF 2,” or “LEAF 3.ZERO” in the UK) is starting production. The planning is this month for Japan, sometime in the spring for North America, and during the summer for those waiting on the old continent and in the UK and Ireland.
This is a refresh of the current 40kWh LEAF 2. That is probably why the Brits call it the LEAF 3. First, let’s look at the enhancements that coming to this new 2019 version of the LEAF.
On the outside, all is the same. On the inside, the biggest visible change is the new 8″ touchscreen. It has an integration with the Nissan smartphone app to manage charging, route planning, and door-to-door navigation when parking is remote from the destination. For many, the most important new feature of the infotainment system is its ability for over-the-air updates, something EV drivers have long desired.
Not visible are the improvements to the driving functions. ProPilot got a little bit more mature, as one can expect from a system on its way to become an autonomous driving system. Don’t expect Tesla-like completely autonomous hardware that only needs new software to become level 5 autonomous. Only the hardware required for the current functionality is in the car. It offers traffic aware cruise-control and lane keeping functions as well as automatic parking. Most of the modern sensor-controlled safety features are available, like blind spot, cross traffic, emergency braking, and around view monitor.
The other driving improvement in 2018 LEAFs and remaining in the new version is the e-Pedal driving, Nissan’s one-pedal driving system. It can brake faster, gives better feed back, react smoother to speed changes, and you have more control when driving in reverse.
Also invisible, until you use it, is the improved charging speed. It is now between 70kW and 100kW when connected to a new-generation CHAdeMO charger. When and where these newer chargers will become available is not yet known.
These are the generic model-year improvements. The current 40kWh, 110kW drivetrain with a 151 mile EPA range rating gets a big brother in the 62kWh e+ (or “e-PLUS” in Canada). This bigger battery powers a stronger 160kW motor as well.
This is the improvement we all have been waiting for. We hoped to see it around the time of the Chevy Bolt — the battery was shown at some shows years ago. Many of us could not fathom that Nissan would not present it when launching the LEAF 2 on October 2, 2017. Only Nissan knows why it did not bring it to market sooner. The company could have sold perhaps a 100,000 cars more with this version in 2018.
It is here now. What are we getting. The battery has a TMS that uses air, not a cooling liquid, to keep the battery at working temperature. Because there was no battery temperature problem or #rapidgate from Nissan’s point of view, there is no information about this crucial aspect. We have to wait for some testers who try to drive a lot in Arizona in summer and around the North Cape in winter — perhaps with a cannonball run with the competition from the Kona EV and e-Niro for good measure.
Until then, the new LEAF e+ is the capable BEV for which we have all be waiting from Nissan, at least in the temperate zones of Europe, North America, and Japan. Incidental longer trips with a single-charge session will likely be no problem. If your intention is long vacations road-tripping across the continent, perhaps wait for the verdict of the testers.
The question for the USA is if the dealers are willing to sell it. Or is Nissan starting a special order campaign like Audi with the role of the dealer as delivery station for the car you configured at the Nissan online sales portal.
In Europe, there will be demand for probably up to 80,000 LEAFs. The late introduction to market might create an Osborne effect, dropping sales to close to zero for the 40kWh version until the 60kWh comes to market. The biggest problem is the capacity of the Sunderland plant. It is also the only European plant for the best-selling Qhasqai. Best-selling margin champions will get priority over anything else.
While I am critical of this car, I also think it is close to perfect, and just in time to compete with the Kona EV and e-Niro. It has a better autonomous system, probably only as an option on the highest trim level.
It also has a huge plus as a house, building, grid battery system. If you have rooftop solar, your utility has a smart grid, or you live where grid outages are normal, this is the electric car for you. Nissan is ahead of everybody else in integrating the LEAF into your home electric system. The downside is that you have to feed and entertain many neighbors when the whole neighborhood is dark except your house.