DETROIT, Michigan — Nissan’s second-generation Leaf electric vehicle starts at $30,875, including destination charges and before state and federal tax credits, so you can drive one away from your dealer for as little as $23,375. The 2018 Nissan Leaf was unveiled in Tokyo and Las Vegas Tuesday night, but Detroit-based media got an up-close and personal look at it at the decidedly less glitzy Technology In Motion (TIM) conference at Cobo Hall Wednesday.
What happens in Detroit gets 150 miles outside of Detroit, at least as far as the Leaf EV is concerned. Chris Reed, Nissan’s vice president of product engineering and the chief engineer in the U.S. for “Leaf activities” gave us details on the new car.
1. Nissan Trades Range for an Affordable Price
Electric vehicle range may be the new horsepower, but in the case of the second-generation Leaf, Nissan chose to balance price with battery capability. The ’18 Nissan Leaf’s 40-kWh lithium ion battery pack, positioned below the floor, powers the car through its 147-hp AC synchronous motor for up to 150 miles, which is a 43-mile improvement over the 2017 Nissan Leaf. It’s 88 miles short of the Chevrolet Bolt’s EPA-rated range, and also falls short of the expected range of the Tesla Model 3. But its price is more than $4,000 lower than the Model 3’s base price, and about $7,500 lower than the Bolt’s. The onboard charger is 6.6 kW.
2. Which Came First? The Price or the Range Tradeoff?
Good question. Nissan’s first order of business for the second-generation model, which comes seven years after the first Leaf, was an affordable price, CEO Carlos Ghosn said a couple of years ago. But Nissan is preparing to respond to the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 with a 60-kWh battery that will push range past 200 miles, Reed says. The 40-kWh Leaf launches in Japan this October 2, but doesn’t go on sale here until early next year. U.S. market models are built in Smyrna, Tennessee, and it will be on sale in all 50 states from the beginning. Nissan says the longer-range Leaf also will go on sale in 2018, but wasn’t specific about timing.
3. New e-Pedal Feature Goes Slightly Beyond One-Pedal Driving
Other electric models have featured one pedal driving, in which the brake energy regeneration makes it possible to stop without touching the pedal. But the Nissan e-Pedal feature, which is standard, engages the friction brakes so the car will not roll off after you come to a complete stop.
4. Pro-Pilot Assist Autonomous Features Cost Extra
Nissan is launching its Level II-ish Pro-Pilot Assist as an option on the 2018 Nissan Leaf SV and SL trim levels (“S” is the base, “under $30,000 before destination charges and rebates” model). Pro-Pilot Assist combines intelligent cruise control with lane-centering, the latter of which requires you to keep your hands on or near the wheel, but saves you minor steering corrections on clearly marked freeways and highways. The intelligent cruise control brings the car to a complete stop, and starts it up again if your stop comes in under the 3-second rule, so this feature will be very popular in the constant traffic jams of Los Angeles, New York and the San Francisco Bay Area. The 2018 Nissan Leaf SL on display at the TIM conference was a fully optioned car with a very nice interior featuring leather seat inserts. The expected price for such a car is about $38,000 before tax credits, or about the same price as a base Chevy Bolt.
5. Waiting is the Hardest Part
As with all such electrified cars, the next Nissan Leaf is the one to have. Beside the longer-range battery coming later in 2018, Pro-Pilot Assist is scheduled for a hardware update around 2020 that will add hands-off and lane-change capability on limited access highways. Notice we said “hardware update,” which means earlier models cannot be updated with these more advanced autonomous features.
Bonus Sixth Round: Recharge Times
One hour of at-home or public level 2 charging adds up to 22 miles of range. Five hours of the same adds up to 111 miles, Nissan says. A public DC quick charge can add 90 miles of range in just 30 minutes.