2018 LEAF range won’t match others
According to recently leaked information on the Autobytel website, it seems the new 2018 LEAF will have a 40 kWh battery pack. Given the range of the current 30 kWh pack (107 miles), the larger size of the new battery along with expected improvements in drivetrain efficiencies, the driving range of the new LEAF should come in around 150 miles. While a nice improvement from the current situation, this still falls well short of the Chevy Bolt’s 238 mile range.
This leaked information does not really come as a surprise to anyone who’s looked closely at the existing spy shots of the 2018 LEAF. It seems that the new LEAF takes the existing LEAF passenger compartment and attaches new sheet metal to the front and rear of the vehicle, rather than Nissan designing an all-new car for LEAF 2.0. This is significant, because the traction battery sits beneath the passenger compartment. If that space hasn’t been reconfigured, there is only space for the same size battery case as before. Nissan has already improved packaging to move from the early 24 kWh batteries to 30 kWh batteries in the same case. It’s not a stretch to think that with further improvements in chemistry and packaging that they could squeeze a 40 kWh battery into the same space. I think it unlikely that a bigger battery option will be available. Physically there’s just no room unless I’m wrong about them using the same passenger compartment. This news will sadden many existing LEAF owners looking to upgrade, and will be less likely to attract the number of new EV drivers that Nissan was probably hoping to capture with LEAF 2.0.
Much has been written (some of it on these pages) about the impending 60 kWh LEAF with a range of over 200 miles based on some information put out by Nissan. This was my expectation before seeing the early camouflaged spy shots. When I saw the shape of the new car, I was pretty certain that there would be no Bolt killer here. That’s not to say that Nissan won’t come out with a bigger battery in the future, but I just don’t see how they’ll fit it into this body. If they were to carve out some of the cargo space that would add its own challenges. More weight moved rearward would require a unique suspension design, plus the added weight moved so far back would change handling characteristics. They could perhaps design a case that is slightly taller which could allow them to squeeze a few more modules into the main case. Without having an all new car the company is faced with limited options should they wish to improve the range of the 2018 LEAF.
This (almost) all new LEAF will have some pretty cool technology with Nissan’s ProPILOT system. And we won’t have to look at those bulging headlights anymore. That said, when looking ahead to LEAF 2.0 there were many studies of EV owners after the LEAF first came out. These studies seemed to indicate that a 150 mile range would be adequate for many EV drivers. But this was when the LEAF only had a 73 mile range. Doubling that range seemed great at the time. It seems Nissan moved forward based on that information. Fast forward to the land of 238 mile Chevy Bolts and 220 mile Tesla Model 3s and that 150 mile range isn’t so impressive any more. I hope I’m wrong and they find a way to squeeze a bigger battery in there. We’ll see.