The new Nissan LEAF has arrived – and it has a longer range, is more practical, better to drive and has even more equipment.
Since its launch in 2011, more than 50,000 examples have found homes and the world’s best-selling pure electric vehicle has been built solely in Japan. But production of the new model will soon commence at Nissan’s Sunderland production facility with more than 100 changes made to the multi-award winning car.
Improvements include an extended driving range, greater recyclability, more interior space, better charging performance, more equipment and, with three versions now available, greater choice. Subtle styling changes to the nose of the car have improved its already impressive aerodynamic efficiency.
Many of the changes have come as a direct result of feedback from pioneering LEAF owners. With some of the most active Internet forums of any car-owning group, LEAF drivers have become enthusiastic advocates of zero-emission mobility and of the car itself – LEAF enjoys the highest customer satisfaction rating of any Nissan model with a score of 93 per cent.
As well as discussions about various aspects of life with a LEAF, the forums are used by owners to offer tips and hints to fellow users, as well as to suggest a number of improvements that could be made to the game-changing car. By monitoring this feedback and by holding regular owner events to gain further input, Nissan has incorporated many of the suggestions into New LEAF.
At the time of the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, for example, there were 150 Nissan LEAF dealers across Europe and 195 Quick Chargers, capable of charging a battery to 80 per cent capacity in less than 30 minutes. Today, just 12 months later, there are 1,400 dealers and more than 600 Quick Chargers, while the number of conventional public chargers has increased from 12,000 to more than 20,000.
The dramatic expansion in Quick Chargers has been facilitated in part by Nissan, which has provided a number of the units to local authorities to accelerate the development of Quick Charging ‘Highways’ between cities across Europe. To date, Nissan is behind the installations of 200 Quick Chargers, both at dealers and strategic locations, and plans to triple this figure over the next 12 months.
Customer peace of mind has also been increased with a new comprehensive warranty plan for the batteries. As well as covering the batteries against defects in materials and workmanship for five years/100,000 kms, they will be covered by a ‘State Of Health’ clause which covers gradual capacity loss.
Over time, lithium-ion batteries lose a percentage of their capacity, a natural phenomenon. But should battery life reduce quicker than anticipated over the same warranty period it will either be repaired or replaced.
One significant change to the 2013 Nissan LEAF is the move to producing the car in three different locations: North America, Europe and Japan. In Europe, production will start shortly in Sunderland in the UK, where LEAF will be sharing the line with Qashqai and joining Note and Juke. At the same time, the high-tech lithium-ion batteries are already being produced at a new facility nearby on the Sunderland site.
• New fully integrated powertrain
• Enhanced ride and handling with chassis tuned for Europe
• Extended real-world driving range
• Faster charging option
• Enhanced technology and more driving modes
• Revised grille for improved aerodynamics
• New range of wheels
• Extended colour palette
• New more supportive seats
• New environmentally friendly seat fabrics
• Leather trim now available
• More luggage space
• More equipment, including Around View Monitor
• Three trim levels
At first glance, the new LEAF appears to have changed very little from the multi-award winning original. But the breadth and depth of the changes mean, to all intents and purposes, it is a new car. It is more comfortable and roomier than before and even better to drive. It will go further on a charge than before and, depending on the market, it can be charged in half the time, too.
By moving the charger from the rear of the LEAF to under the bonnet, it has been possible to increase the luggage area by as much as 40 litres… or to put that another way, about the size of a typical airplane ‘carry-on’ suitcase. Overall boot capacity has increased to a massive 370 litres.
More significantly, the removal of the charger from behind the rear seats turns the LEAF into an even more practical proposition. There is now no obstacle in the middle of the boot floor when the seats are folded, while rear legroom has been increased thanks to reshaped seat cushions, which allow passengers in the rear to put their feet under the seat in front.
Improvements to the heating and ventilation system centre on a new heat pump system which replaces the original ceramic heater. This significantly reduces electrical consumption and delivers an improvement in real-world driving range. This is particularly relevant to markets where drivers rely heavily on the heating and ventilation systems.
New LEAF’s real-world driving range has also been improved by the only visual change to the car: a subtly revised front grille helps reduce the aerodynamic drag coefficient Cd figure from an already impressive 0.29 to 0.28. The new LEAF’s driving range is certified at 124miles (200km) under the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), which is an increase from 109 miles (175 km) in the prior model.
The new LEAF is more fun to drive, too, thanks to changes to the chassis, steering and brakes engineered at Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE). Principal changes have been to damper settings to reduce float and deliver a more agile and dynamic drive without adversely affecting ride comfort. The steering system has been given more weight to provide steering feel more in tune with European tastes while the performance of the brakes has been improved to make them more progressive in use, while also increasing the amount of energy recovered.
Changes have also been made to the Eco driving mode. A new ‘B’ setting on the transmission increases regenerative braking during deceleration while a separate ‘Eco’ button on the steering wheel extends driving range by altering the throttle mapping to discourage rapid acceleration. The two systems can be operated independently of one another, unlike in the original LEAF.
Other key improvements to the LEAF’s e-Powertrain include reduced internal friction and a more efficient battery and energy management system.
Reduced charging time is also promised by a new option that will cut the conventional charging length in half, from eight to four hours. A new 6.6kW on board charger will permit the use of 32 amp charging using the latest generation of chargers installed in domestic and commercial properties. A typical domestic socket delivers 10 amps.
A more affordable option than a full Quick Charger, some authorities are installing public charging posts already capable of delivering 32 amps output. The adoption of a 6.6kW charger will allow drivers to give their battery a meaningful boost even during a short stopover.
Where the original model featured material made from 39 per cent recycled plastic bottles, the new bio-fabric is 100 per cent derived from sugar cane, further improving LEAF’s overall recyclability and environmental credentials. Leather is also now available, as is a darker and more practical interior finish.