Nissan has sold more than 260,000 LEAF electric vehicles (EV) since December 2010. As battery-powered cars go, one could argue the LEAF has been a rousing success. Nissan is the world’s No. 1 EV maker, period.
Yet in the bigger picture, the LEAF has been a savage disappointment. Nissan had hoped it would ignite a frenzy of interest in EVs – among buyers and automakers racing to meet mounting consumer demand for zero-emissions vehicles.
Yet last month, only 122 Canadians bought a LEAF ($33,998). LEAF buyers may be eligible for up to $14,000 in provincial incentives, but a $20,000-something Nissan EV still has little mainstream appeal – even one like the zero-emissions LEAF, a five-door hatchback with a range of up 172 km.
The next-generation LEAF really must be a vast improvement over the outgoing one. And now the tease is on.
We’ve already seen a tiny bit of the “next chapter in Nissan’s Intelligent Zero-Emissions Mobility.” The teaser image is just the start of Nissan’s campaign to reinvent not just the LEAF itself, but its place in the world and how people perceive it. There will be more photos and infobits to come, culminating in the global reveal of the next-generation LEAF in early September.
So what’s Nissan’s plan for LEAF 2.0? It will go on sale by the end of this year and it surely will remain a hatchback. Expect it to go perhaps 400 km on a single charge.
We might also see the LEAF become something of a brand unto itself, one that includes an all-electric crossover. Nissan has hinted at this in discussing the coming Vmotion 3.0 concept to be shown later this year.
We’ve already seen Nissan’s EV design ideas in the Vmotion 2.0 concept. Nissan has talked about the styling demands and opportunities presented by electric motors and batteries and has said we’ll learn more about Nissan’s views here when we see Vmotion 3.0.
Nissan will also try to tie together the three emerging trends in the global car market: electrification, autonomous driving, and connectivity in LEAF 2.0.
“Why not try something new?” Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan global design chief, said in Automotive News. “In the future, we’re not going to have just one EV. So we’re starting to map out what is the DNA that can go across different genres.”
He told the industry publication that flat flooring, sleek aerodynamic shapes, and narrower, low-resistance tires will likely be prominent in Vmotion 3.0.
“We are clearly focusing our attention on a crossover EV, because it’s our DNA,” he said. “The crossover will really embody the latest Nissan Intelligent Mobility features.”
As for the current LEAF, the soft, bubble-like look is the automotive equivalent of a Birkenstock sandal. Ugly, but comfortable. And while that design might have some appeal for a sliver of true believers, we know from Tesla’s success that sleek styling sells electric cars.
Here’s what else we can expect in LEAF 2.0. It would make sense for it to improve on the Chevrolet Bolt, which has a 60 kWh battery, a range of 383 km and a 0-100 km/hour sprint of about seven seconds. Nissan should also be able to improve on the Bolt’s recharging capability.
Using a DC (direct current) station, the Bolt can be juiced up to a range of 145 km in 30 minutes. However, rumours are circulating that Nissan might launch LEAF 2.0 with a pedestrian battery, say 36 kWh or 48 kWh. That would be a mistake. It would put the car at a big disadvantage versus the Bolt and Tesla’s promised Model 3 due later this year.
One advantage the LEAF will have is on the production side. Nissan makes the LEAF in three locations: Japan, Tennessee and the U.K., so buyers will have easy and quick access to the new car regardless of where they live.
We can expect Nissan to launch a well-tested, proven LEAF 2.0, one remarkably durable and reliable. The LEAF’s proven quality is one selling point going forward, and Nissan’s work on autonomous and connectivity technologies will surely shine in LEAF 2.0, too.
That leaves design. It’s time for Nissan’s stylists to step up and make LEAF 2.0 sexy, not just practical and durable.