published in January 9, 2019 |
from Maarten Vinkhuyzen
January 9, 2019 per Maarten Vinkhuyzen
After many delays and years of waiting that embarrassed Tesla's cheeks, the 60kWh Nissan LEAF ("LEAF 2" or "LEAF 3.ZERO" in the UK) is starting production. 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 an update of the current 40kWh LEAF 2. This is probably why the British call it LEAF 3. First, let's see the improvements that come to this new 2019 version of the LEAF.
From the outside, everything is the same. Inside, the biggest change visible is the new 8-inch touchscreen. It integrates with Nissan's smartphone application to manage billing, route planning and door-to-door navigation when parking is far from the destination. For many, the most important new feature of the infotainment system is its ability to upgrade through the air, something that electric vehicle drivers have been wanting for a long time.
Improvements in steering functions are not visible. The ProPilot got a bit more mature, as you would expect from a system in the process of becoming an autonomous driving system. Do not expect completely standalone hardware like the Tesla, which only needs new software to become standalone at level 5. Only the hardware needed for the current functionality is in the car. It offers cruise control and lane maintenance functions as well as automatic parking. Most modern sensor-controlled security features are available, such as blind spot, cross-traffic, emergency braking and the display monitor.
The other direction improvement in 2018 LEAFs and remaining in the new version is the e-Pedal, the steering system of a Nissan pedal. It can brake faster, offers better return, reacts more smoothly to speed changes, and gives you more control when driving in reverse.
Also invisible, until you use it, is the improved loading speed. It is now between 70kW and 100kW when connected to a new generation CHAdeMO charger. When and where these newer chargers become available is not yet known.
These are the year model improvements. The current 40 kWh and 110 kW transmission train with a 151-mile EPA rating gets an older brother at 62kWh and + (or "e-PLUS" in Canada). This larger battery also powers a more powerful 160kW motor.
This is the improvement we all expected. We had hoped to see it in the Chevy Bolt era – the drums were shown at a few shows years ago. Many of us could not imagine that Nissan would not introduce the product by launching LEAF 2 on October 2, 2017. Only Nissan knows why it did not put it on the market sooner. The company could have sold perhaps 100,000 more cars with this version in 2018.
It's 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. As there was no problem of battery temperature or #rapidgate from Nissan's point of view, there is no information on this crucial aspect. We have to wait for some testers trying to drive a lot in Arizona in the summer and around the North Cape in the winter – maybe with a cannonball with competition from Kona EV and e-Niro for good measure.
Until then, the new LEAF and + is the capable BEV that we all expect from Nissan, at least in the temperate zones of Europe, North America and Japan. Occasional longer trips with a single charge session will probably not be a problem. If your intention is long journeys across the continent, perhaps wait for the verdict of the testers.
The question for the US is whether traders are willing to sell it. Or Nissan is starting a special order campaign such as Audi as the dealer as the delivery station for the car you set up on Nissan's online sales portal.
In Europe, there will be demand for probably up to 80,000 LEAFs. Late introduction to the market can create an Osborne effect, reducing sales to close to zero for the 40kWh version until 60kWh hit the market. The biggest problem is the capacity of the Sunderland factory. It is also the only European factory for the best-selling Qhasqai. The top-selling margin winners will have priority over anything else.
Although I'm critical of this car, I also think it's close to perfection and in time to compete with Kona EV and e-Niro. It has a better standalone system, probably just as an option at the highest finishing level.
It also has a huge advantage as a home, building, grid battery system. If you have solar power on the roof, your dealership has a smart grid or you live where network interruptions are normal, this is the electric car for you. Nissan is ahead of everyone in integrating LEAF into your home's electrical system. The downside is that you have to feed and entertain many neighbors when the whole neighborhood is dark except your home.