First gen LEAF remanufactured batteries on the way

LEAF Battery Pack

Remanufacturing LEAF batteries

When Nissan first started selling the LEAF in 2010, they were already looking to the future. They partnered with Sumitomo to create 4R Energy Corporation to evaluate second-life applications for degraded EV batteries. 4R Energy is now starting production of remanufactured batteries in Japan.

Previously, it took Nissan 16 days to evaluate the entire battery pack. Sumitomo can do it in four hours. This improvement in efficiency makes the remanufacturing process much more cost effective. Available only in Japan initially, price of the pack will be $2,855, roughly half the cost of a new replacement battery. Freight to the US would make them more expensive here. Nissan is talking about the first generation 24 kWh battery packs only. The 30 kWh battery packs use different chemistry, which is also different from the newest 40 kWh packs available in the 2018 LEAF. This process applies only to the first gen cells for now.

Not available in high volume

Initial production calls for only a few hundred each year, with plant capacity currently 2,250 battery packs annually. With over 100,000 first-gen LEAFs on the road globally, this will not come close to meeting ultimate demand, but it’s a move in the right direction. No information is known about availability in markets other than Japan, or if plants will be built elsewhere.

80 percent capacity

R4 is removing modules with less than 80 percent capacity and using them in other applications. Modules with 80 percent capacity or above are assigned to replacement LEAF batteries. What this means is that your remanufactured battery will not go the original 84 mile range, but will instead give you at least 67. So who would want to buy one of these?

Inexpensive town car

Currently a 2011-2012 LEAF can be had for anywhere from $6,000 to $8,000 depending on mileage, trim and condition. Perhaps less in some markets. Add $3,000 for the replacement battery and you have a low maintenance, inexpensive car to do all of your around-town errands while keeping the mileage low on your leased vehicle and lowering your fuel costs significantly. Perhaps not the solution for everyone, but certainly a consideration for many.

[Source: Reuters]

Posted in Driving Range, Is the Nissan LEAF right for me?, LEAF 101 | Leave a comment

LEAF wins KBB Five Year Cost to Own – Electric Vehicle

Less is more

Lower operating expense is an important reason to buy an electric car compared to a gas powered car. If this factor is important to you, it makes sense to consider the one that has the lowest cost of ownership. This year, it is the 2018 Nissan LEAF.

Kelley Blue Book (KBB) annually selects vehicles with the lowest ownership costs over their first five years of life. Operating costs such as fuel, maintenance, repairs, and insurance are taken into account. But also considered are other ownership costs such as financing and depreciation.

The results

I’ll spare you the drama and tell you up front that the three lowest cost of ownership electric cars for 2018 are LEAF, Chevrolet Bolt, and BMW i3. There are some significant differences among the three though. You might still choose Bolt or i3 for reasons beyond cost of ownership.

2018 Nissan LEAF

LEAF costs $38,258 to drive over its first five years. More potential owners will probably compare LEAF to Bolt than to the i3, so I’ll look at some differences between these two.

LEAF gets its lower cost to own advantage primarily by having a lower price. Entry price points of LEAF to Bolt are over $6,000 apart. Of course, what you get with the Chevy is 88 miles of additional range for your money. Automatic Emergency Braking, standard on the LEAF, is optional on the Bolt upper Premier trim level. Nissan also offers ProPILOT assist driver assistance technology and available Intelligent Cruise Control. Neither are available on the Bolt.

2018 Chevrolet Bolt

Bolt runs $46,286 over its first five years. The biggest part of that disadvantage to the LEAF is the higher base MSRP. As already mentioned, the big draw of the Chevy is the additional range, but if its range that you won’t typically use, it may prove to be an unneeded expense. The Bolt does offer features not found on the LEAF though. First, there is a 10 inch touchscreen display compared to the 7 inch display in the LEAF. Both offer one-pedal driving – in the Bolt it’s called Low mode, and LEAF offers e-Pedal. Both will provide additional regenerative capacity and quicker slowing but the Bolt has a paddle behind the steering wheel to add just a touch more when you want it. Bolt has a shorter wheelbase, which can make for a choppier ride around town and some owners have complained about seat comfort.

2018 BMW i3

The BMW runs significantly more to own over the first five years – $55,690. It costs more to buy – $44,450 and more to finance, which are the single biggest contributing factors to the cost difference. BMW does bring something to the table not found on either of the other two – a range extending model. With an electric only range of 114 miles, BMW offers an onboard gas engine to serve as a generator to extend the range to 180 miles. But if range is the real issue, for less money you could just buy the Bolt to begin with. But you wouldn’t have the cool badge on the hood. Surprisingly, of the three, it’s not the BMW with the most horsepower. It’s the Bolt. i3 – 170 HP. Bolt – 200 HP. LEAF – 147 HP. That said, you’re probably not buying any of these to go street racing.


There are many more EVs to choose from than ever before. Still, an EV is not right for everyone. But if you fall into the EV sweet spot where you have another car that you can use for long trips, here are three EVs worth considering.

Posted in Industry News, Is the Nissan LEAF right for me?, LEAF 101, LEAF Information, Other EVs | Leave a comment

LEAF vs. Bolt Test Drive Comparison

Totally redesigned 2018 Nissan LEAF

Totally redesigned 2018 Nissan LEAF

2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV

How do they stack up?

With the launch of the 2018 Nissan LEAF, I thought I’d provide a write-up of the two vehicles most likely to be duking it out for the affordable EV sales crown this year.

Chevrolet launched the 2017 Bolt in late 2016. Not all markets got the car at the same time, similar to when LEAF launched in 2010. Chevy rolled it out in California first, then proceeded across the rest of the country. Sales have steadily ramped up through 2017 with national sales achieving the 3,000 sales per month mark by the end of the year. LEAF achieved similar sales numbers at its peak in 2014.

Range – Bolt wins

Generally one of the first questions people (still…) ask about an EV is “How far will it go?” EPA says the Bolt will go 238 and the LEAF will go 151. But that’s the wrong question to ask. The better question to ask is (still…) “Will it cover my typical daily driving needs?”

To put that another way, if you drove the Bolt 200 miles every day, you would rack up 73,000 miles per year. Even in commute-intensive Southern California, most drivers don’t cover that much territory. The LEAF, on the other hand, if driven just 100 miles each day would cover 36,500 miles a year. This is well under the stated EPA range of the vehicle, and much farther than the average owner (EV or otherwise) drives each year.

If you truly need a long-range vehicle, I suggest you consider something other than an EV. If you only have one car and really do need to drive long distances on a semi-regular basis, a plug-in hybrid or conventional hybrid may be a better vehicle for you. Although studies have shown that most EV owners own multiple vehicles, and in that case, take the gas guzzler for longer trips.

Style – LEAF wins

I’ve owned three LEAFs, despite how they look. The first gen LEAF is not a pretty car. The same could be said of the first gen Bolt, with its stubby nose leaving much to be desired as there is very little overhang ahead of the front wheels. The Mini Cooper also has a short overhang, but the Mini’s short windshield is very upright, creating its signature boxy look. By contrast, the Bolt’s steeply raked windshield is taller than the hood is long, resulting in proportions that don’t fit within established norms of what a car should look like. The Bolt front end is more akin to a minivan.

Chevrolet Bolt EV with its short hood and long windshield

Chevrolet Bolt EV with its short hood and long windshield

LEAF's all-new look is longer and sleeker than before

LEAF’s all-new look is longer and sleeker than before

Another contributing factor to Bolt’s style, although many might miss it, is that it rides on a four inch shorter wheelbase than the LEAF. While you might think this would improve the maneuverability of the Bolt, the turning circles are almost identical.

Ride quality and comfort – LEAF wins

You’ve seen stretch limos running around town, right? You know why they’re stretched? In addition to offering more room for the party in back, they offer a better ride quality. The closer the rear wheels are to the front wheels, the choppier the ride. As the two axles move farther apart, the ride improves. This is one of the reasons that large cars generally offer a better ride than sub-compacts. On less than perfect city streets, there is a notable difference between the ride comfort of these two cars.

Bolt seats front and rear have less cushioning than LEAF causing some to complain

Bolt seats front and rear have less cushioning than LEAF causing some to complain

Seat design is another factor in the comfort equation. Here the comfort of the LEAF is easily seen as well as felt. The cushion thickness of the Chevrolet seats is significantly thinner than those found in the LEAF. Be sure to fold the back seat down of both vehicles for a clear comparison. Two of the most common complaints submitted from Bolt owners are the seats, and visibility. That long dash creates a big flat space where glare can become problematic.

LEAF rear seats have better side and seat bottom bolsters from improved comfort

LEAF rear seats have better side and seat bottom bolsters for improved comfort

Additionally, LEAF offers an acoustic glass windshield to reduce cabin noise.

LEAF has an acoustic glass windshield that reduces interior noise

LEAF has an acoustic glass windshield that reduces interior noise

Bolt has a long flat dash that can create glare

Bolt has a long flat dash that can create glare

I bring this up because one of the major auto publications has published a comparison test of the LEAF, Bolt, and Tesla Model 3. They acknowledged right up front that throwing the Tesla into the mix against these two wasn’t really fair, but they did it anyway. According to their instrumented testing (which I can’t afford to do), if you want a smooth, quiet ride, the LEAF is the EV you’re looking for. (BTW, the Model 3 they had was an early production run version with an MSRP of $60,500. So much for the affordable Tesla…)

Acceleration and Braking – Both have advantages

The Bolt has more power, and will accelerate more quickly. The LEAFs e-Pedal works more consistently.

Bolt offers 200 horsepower. LEAF gives you 147. That said, is anybody really buying either one of these for street racing? Sure, it’s fun to punch the throttle and blow away the unsuspecting Prius sitting next to you at the light, but that’s not really the demographic that either of these cars is going for.

Most people that have never driven an electric car will be more than pleased with the acceleration either provides. Both are quicker than any similarly sized 4-cylinder small hatch. Also, LEAF, with its horsepower and torque bump this year, offers significantly improved mid-range power over the 2017 model. In my view, this makes it much more fun to drive and can provide a margin of safety over the previous car.

Both Bolt and LEAF offer multiple drive modes with varying levels of regenerative braking. For those unfamiliar with the concept, think of engine braking, except in this case it’s provided by the electric motor. In addition to Drive mode, Bolt has a Low mode which enhances the regen, but it also has a paddle on the steering wheel, that when pulled increases it even more.

LEAF has a new feature called e-Pedal, which is presented as one pedal driving most of the time. In essence – step on the accelerator to go and lift your foot off the accelerator to slow and stop.  Nissan’s drive modes are Drive, Brake mode or B Mode for greater regen, and for the most regenerative braking, toggle the e-Pedal on. This is where Nissan’s engineering team took it to another level.

Regenerative Braking defined

Regen gets talked about a lot, but many people still don’t understand it well.

In a typical gas-powered car, you step on the gas pedal to go. Gasoline is pulled out of the tank, burned in the internal combustion engine which in turn spins the wheels. This is extremely simplified, but you get the idea. In the typical EV you step on the accelerator (it’s okay to still call it the gas pedal, although… you know…) Electricity is pulled out of the battery to turn the electric motor, which in turn spins the wheels. Same basic concept between the two, just a different source of fuel.

Here’s where it gets interesting. In your gas guzzler, when you lift off the throttle, you are no longer taking gas out of the tank, but you’re not putting any into it either. In an EV, when you lift off the throttle, you are putting “gas back into the tank” so to speak.


Cars are now computers on wheels. The electric motor in an EV has only one moving part – the rotor. When it spins, the car moves. In an EV, when you lift your foot off the throttle, a computer tells the electric motor to spin in the opposite direction. The rotor doesn’t care which direction it’s spinning. Think of a jet plane, upon landing, reversing the thrust of the jet engines to slow the plane. The same power that had been pushing it forward is now being used to slow it down. But in the case of the EV, you just turned your electric motor into a generator which is now putting electricity back into the battery. Also, it’s called a regenerative braking system because not only is it putting electricity back into the battery, the effort it takes to do that also slows the car down. Pretty cool stuff!

The problem is this. If you just charged your battery to 100 percent, there is no place for this electricity to go, so regen can’t help slow you down. Nissan learned from their first-generation LEAF owners that they didn’t like it when their car’s driving behavior changed with a full battery. So they took one of those computers and told it to operate the friction brakes on lift throttle conditions when the battery is full. End result – even with a full battery, the e-Pedal will slow the car (using friction brakes) when the battery has a full charge. All without you touching the brake pedal in the LEAF. Oh… your brake lights are also on when you are slowing your LEAF with e-Pedal.

By contrast, the Bolt will only coast with a fully-charged battery when in Low mode because the regenerative braking system does not tie into the friction braking system the same way.

e-Pedal will bring the LEAF to a stop at a traffic light or stop sign, but it does take some getting used to. Learning to recalibrate the connection between your right foot and your brain is easier for some than it is for others. When stopped, the LEAF will not move again until you step on the accelerator. It clamps the brakes and keeps the brake lights illuminated. This is great for those that live in hilly cities like Seattle or San Francisco. The car won’t roll even on an incline. The Bolt doesn’t offer that feature.

Other differences

As with all similar cars, there will always be small differences. Some will be important to one person, but not another. LEAF has sun visors that extend, while Bolt does not. Bolt has a rear seat center arm rest, LEAF doesn’t. LEAF has adjustable seat belt shoulder anchors for different height drivers. Not available on the Bolt. Other differences are not quite as small.

Bolt offers a 10.2 inch dash mounted touch screen. LEAF’s is a puny seven inch screen by comparison. That said, LEAF offers a factory navigation system in addition to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are also available on the Bolt. Bolt though, relies on the smartphone navigation. Broken phone, no USB cable, or bad cell service? No navigation.

For 2018, Nissan brings a power driver’s seat to the LEAF for the first time. You must get an upgraded trim level, but at least it’s available. Chevy misses out on that creature comfort. Even on the top trim level.

Finally, LEAF brings ProPILOT Assist to the fight. Since I’ve already written about that here, I won’t go over it again. Bolt offers nothing similar.

LEAF vs. Bolt

If you are considering a new EV, you should definitely look at both of these cars to decide for yourself. Some decisions are never easy. Others, the choice is more clear. Consider pricing – LEAF: roughly $30,000 to $39,000. Bolt: roughly $37,000 to $44,000. Getting back to that first question – is eighty eight miles more worth it?

Posted in Industry News, Is the Nissan LEAF right for me?, LEAF 101, LEAF Information, Other EVs | 6 Comments

Real World Nissan ProPILOT Assist – Level One Autonomy

Nissan ProPILOT AssistTrue driver assistance technology

Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist is a hands-on, driver assistance system. It is not an autopilot system. The technology basically incorporates two features – vehicle acceleration and braking assistance which Nissan calls Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC). ProPILOT Assist combines this with vehicle steering assistance. Nissan’s claim is that this system will reduce driver stress and fatigue in stop and go commute traffic and on long trips. I’ve been able to experience ProPILOT Assist for an extended period of time in both of these situations and have found that the system does pretty much what it says it does. Here are my observations.

Intelligent Cruise Control

ProPILOT Assist button

ProPILOT Assist button

Just like conventional cruise control, when the vehicle reaches your desired speed, the driver sets the target vehicle speed. Pressing the button with a blue icon on the steering wheel activates the system. Pressing the set button enters the desired speed. This activates the Intelligent Cruise Control, which will maintain the vehicle’s set speed. When approaching a vehicle moving slower than the vehicle set speed, a radar sensor in the grill detects the speed of the slower car, and will slow the vehicle speed to match that of the leading vehicle. When that car accelerates or moves out of the lane, Nissan’s ICC will accelerate back to the set speed.

I’ve experienced ICC on various Nissan products for quite some time now, and it works amazingly well. Many other manufacturers have a similar system, and it goes by many names, such as adaptive cruise control. Following distance can be set to long, medium, or short. This is done with the button with three lines on it. System activation defaults to the long following distance every time you turn it on. The following distance varies with the set speed of the vehicle. The faster the set speed, the more space is provided between the cars. This operates pretty much the way that you would normally allow some room between you and the car in front of you. You can tailor that following distance to your personal preference.

When driving in stop-and-go commute traffic, the system will adjust vehicle speed to maintain a safe distance to the car ahead. As freeway speeds vary, your vehicle speed will vary with the car in front of you. As commute congestion increases and speeds slow, your vehicle will pace the vehicle ahead. If traffic ultimately stops, you will come to a stop behind the car in front of you.  When traffic starts moving again, a press of the resume button will reengage ICC.

If you’ve never experienced an advanced cruise control system like this, I recommend that you start with the long following distance to acclimate yourself to its behavior. Once you get more familiar with it, you may be comfortable in reducing the following distance, which can be useful in more congested driving situations.

Steering assistance

Integrated steering assistance takes the system to the next level. Nissan positions a camera at the top center of the windshield, near the rear-view mirror. The camera is looking for the lane markers on each side of the lane that you’re driving in. If there are lane markers on only one side of the lane, the system will not work. Once it recognizes both sets of lane markers, your target path is the center of the lane.

New ProPILOT display - Non LEAF Image

New ProPILOT display – Non LEAF Image

Once you activate the set speed of the system, the camera will notify you when it acquires the lane markers. It does this with an audible tone and by changing the display on the instrument panel. You will see two green lines indicating the sides of your lane, and a green steering wheel just to the left of the lane marker indicators. Once the camera locates the lane markers, the steering wheel will also provide some resistance to your steering input. You still have steering control to override the system if needed, but there is a distinct firmness to the steering wheel response. You will also feel the steering wheel start to make minor adjustments, just as you would if you were steering the car. If the camera loses the lane markers, you will get a double chime and the green lane markers and steering wheel in the instrument cluster will turn gray. Also, the firmness of the steering wheel response is released, and the steering response will return to its typical light touch.

How does it work?

The system works fine. Nissan benchmarked it against similar systems offered by luxury brands. In several weeks of driving in pretty much every imaginable scenario that the system was designed for, it worked great. So, what driving situations is it designed for? Single lane control on a freeway or major highway. It cannot change lanes. In other words, you can’t use it around town or just say “Home, James” and expect to arrive at home in an hour or so.

Long trips

Let’s start with the simplest scenario. Long distance freeway driving with minimal traffic. Once activated, the system easily maintains vehicle control and centers the vehicle in the lane. It works on concrete freeways with aged white lines which did not provide very good line visibility. It works extremely well on newer paved dark surfaces with freshly painted white lines. In a relatively challenging scenario, where the concrete freeway lanes do not coincide with the lane markers due to freeway expansion over time, the system easily tracked the lane markers rather than the contours of the actual concrete lanes.

One scenario that the system found challenging was a concrete freeway with only Botts dots as lane markers, and no painted white lines. While the system worked fine in good light, when passing through shadows (such as an overpass or trees), the camera would not always recognize the Botts dots. Interestingly, while writing this article I learned that Botts dots may be phased out due to this particular issue.

One other issue that I found was in construction zones. Where temporary K-rails or Jersey barriers were in use there were occasional issues. For instance, if there was no shoulder and the K-rail was adjacent to the lane. With one lane marker in shadow with the other in bright sunlight, sometimes the system could not detect both lane markers.

Finally, with the sun low in the horizon and in your eyes, it is also in the camera lens. In this instance, the system warned that it could not see the lane markers.

Commute traffic

Possibly a more typical scenario would be commute traffic. Stop-and-go traffic while tired at the end of a long day is never fun. Once the desired speed is set, the system once again works great most of the time. It will try to maintain your set speed, but if traffic moves more slowly, your pace will be matched to the car ahead of you. This is where shortening the following distance is sometimes helpful. Other drivers often squeeze into the space left by the system (at least in Southern California) if left in the default long following distance. If traffic creeps along at two miles per hour, you creep along at two miles per hour. When the guy in front of you slows to a stop, you will stop roughly a car-length behind him. The system will hold you in place and when the car in front of you starts moving, just tap the accelerator or hit the resume button on the steering wheel and you will continue with your set speed unchanged. Sometimes at extremely slow speeds, it took the camera a little longer to find the lane markers.

When do you need to take control?

The system is designed to work with gentle curves and relatively flat roads. Driving down a 4,000 foot mountain pass with few straights and many bends, the system just said no. I think there is probably a certain level of torque that the system is capable of providing to turn the wheel, and if this threshold is exceeded it can’t keep you centered in your lane.

Another variable is freeway construction zones. If there is a lot of jogging back and forth and changing lane widths, the system did not excel, although it tried hard to maintain its lane centering function.

Finally, if driving in a large city, it’s best not to be in the far right-hand lane. Frequent on-ramps and off-ramps will have the system losing its way if they have no lane markings. Some states use dashed lines where the on-ramp enters or off-ramp exits, and in these situations the system should work fine.

What happens if you take your hands off the wheel?

If you take your hands off the wheel, you will get a visual warning on the instrument panel. If you don’t put your hands back on the wheel, the warning starts flashing and is accompanied by increasingly annoying audible alarms. The system is designed as an assistant for the driver, not a replacement. The system is looking for the resistance that you provide when holding onto the wheel. There is not a grip sensor built into the rim of the steering wheel.

The verdict

ProPILOT Assist does exactly what Nissan says it will do – reduce stress and fatigue in commute traffic or on long drives. While the driver is still in control of the vehicle, and should be prepared to take full control at any time, it makes for much more relaxed driving experiences. Nissan has announced that ProPILOT Assist will be available on the 2018 Rogue and 2018 LEAF. You can likely look for it to make an appearance on future Nissan models as well.

Posted in Is the Nissan LEAF right for me?, LEAF Information | Leave a comment

2018 Nissan LEAF Review

3 LEAFs in driveway

The 2018 Nissan LEAF offers enough promise to retain its place as the best selling EV in the world

First, let’s take a look at it.

Front three quarter view

red side view

Rear three quarter view

Grille closeup red

Why the 2018 LEAF raises the bar

[UPDATE: This article was updated 9/22/17 to correct information about the charge cable.]

The design direction of the new LEAF is a great improvement over the existing car. The faux grille has a blue 3D patterned effect matched by blue trim on the rear fascia. The taillights and floating roof design recall the elegant looking Nissan Murano. I must admit that I was as disappointed as the next guy that the 2018 Nissan LEAF reveal confirmed the 40 kWh battery with its 150 mile range. But I was also heartened by the confirmation of a bigger battery along with a more powerful motor coming on the 2019 model year. And that is why LEAF 2.0 raises the bar. Tesla is no longer the only maker that will offer models with different battery pack sizes. In Tesla’s case, you can order a Model S with a 75 kWh battery or a 100 kWh battery. Big or bigger. The price tag on that Tesla comes in at over $70,000 on the low end. The LEAF, the everyman EV, is expected to offer much more affordable 40 kWh or (expected) 60 kWh options. Plus, the 2018 LEAF looks significantly better than it’s outgoing counterpart. So grab a beverage and I’ll walk you through this (mostly) new EV for the masses. Here’s a quick video to whet your appetite.

But the Bolt goes 238 miles!

Yes. Yes it does. It also has a starting price of $36,620. Which is exactly $6,630 more than the $29,990 starting price of the LEAF. Add destination charges of just under $900 to both. I’m guessing that the bigger battery and more powerful motor promised within the next year or so for the LEAF should come in comfortably close to or under that difference. The range, though, is only part of the issue. Chevy chose to go with the SAE combo fast charge port. LEAF can fast charge in over forty percent more places currently. According to the U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center there are currently 1,158 SAE combo stations with 1,398 charging outlets. The same source currently shows 1,641 CHAdeMO stations with 1,991 outlets. Both styles of connections will continue to grow and many new DC fast charge (DCFC) stations will offer both options, so that divide will narrow. Eventually. Oh, and if you don’t really need that additional range, Chevy doesn’t have a shorter range version available at a lower price.

But the Model 3 starts at $35,000!

If only you could buy one for that! The first thirty deliveries were to employees or investors, and they all came with a price tag of $49,000 or more. All initial production is rolling off of the Tesla assembly line with the big battery and premium options. Tesla isn’t really saying how big that bigger battery is, but with a 310 mile range and based on EPA testing, people smarter than me say that it’s probably around 80 kWh. The smaller battery offers a 220 mile range so it’s somewhere around 60 kWh, perhaps a little less. But Tesla will not even start building that car until November, and they’re not saying anything about how many they’re likely to make. You may recall that the 60 kWh Model S was never really made in quantity and only a handful of 40 kWh cars exist. So don’t hold your breath waiting for the $35,000 version. But if you check off all of the options on the currently available order list you can get your Model 3 up to around $60,000. A performance trim level will be available next year adding even more to that total. Not really the affordable Tesla that many were waiting for.

But what about the 2018 Nissan LEAF?

Alright, now that we’ve got two of the big questions out of the way, let’s dive into the 2018 Nissan LEAF. Let’s start with the things that did not change. It still has three trim levels – entry S, SV, and top trim level SL. It does have more horsepower this year, up from 107 to 147. More impressively, torque improves from 187 lbs-ft to 236 lbs-ft. That should provide quicker acceleration. We’ll find out when we drive it. There is also an all new analog speedometer.

New analog speedometer for 2018

New analog speedometer for 2018

Remaining range and battery state of charge are also represented differently.

Range and state-of-charge meters

Range and state-of-charge meters

According to (where you can configure the car for yourself) the $29,990 S will have limited availability and has two option packages available. The charge package for $1,590 throws in a 120 V/240 V charge cable and quick charge port. That additional charge cable is an auto-switching 240 V unit with a 120 V adapter. According to the label it operates at 12 amps when plugged into 120 V and 30 amps when plugged into 240 V. The 240 V plug is a four-prong, fifty amp, NEMA 14-50R connector. Here is a  picture for the geeks.




All S and SV trim level LEAFs will still come with a 120 V charge cable as standard equipment with this upgrade cable replacing it as noted above or below.

There’s also an all weather package that includes heated outside mirrors, rear ventilation ducts, heated front seats and steering wheel for $450. So a fully optioned S comes in at $32,030. New standard features included on the S this year are automatic emergency braking, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. S trims get 16-inch steel wheels and gray cloth interior. The S also gets Nissan’s new e-Pedal which I will talk more about a little later.

New 7 inch touchscreen featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

New 7 inch touchscreen featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

The volume SV model starts just above that at $32,490. Additional features included standard on the SV are 17-inch alloy wheels, Intelligent Cruise Control and a quick charge port. The SV also has an all weather package available but at a higher price of $900. The additional $450 over the S price gets you a more efficient hybrid heater system. Finally, the Technology Package throws a bunch of tech stuff (and not so tech stuff) your way. Included are: 120 V/240 V charge cable, electronic parking brake, LED headlights and daytime running lights, high beam assist, auto-dimming rear view mirror with HomeLink universal garage door opener, a new 6-way power driver’s seat with power adjustable lumbar, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, Intelligent Lane Intervention, and the newest tech – ProPILOT Assist. I’ll talk about that in a bit.

Black leather interior gets contrasting trim for 2018

Black leather interior gets contrasting trim for 2018

Black leather rear seats with contrasting trim for 2018

Black leather rear seats with contrasting trim for 2018

The top trim SL starts at $36,200 and has only one option – the technology package. Upgrades from the SV include the 120 V/240 V charge cable, blind spot warning, light gray or black leather-appointed seats, Bose audio, and LED headlights with LED daytime running lights. The SL also includes what Nissan calls Intelligent Around View Monitor, which has four cameras mounted around the car that give you excellent visibility when parking. Basically, most of those same features that you get with the SV tech package. The SL tech package ($650) provides an electronic parking brake, high beam assist, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, Intelligent Lane Intervention, and ProPILOT assist. Which means a fully loaded 2018 Nissan LEAF SL is just a bit more than the entry level Bolt.

What is an e-Pedal?

e-Pedal switch

e-Pedal switch

Simply put, the e-Pedal allows one pedal driving. Step on the pedal to speed up. Lift your foot to slow down. In addition to providing a much more aggressive brake regeneration capability than is currently available, this can actually apply the brakes just as if you were stepping on the brake pedal bringing the car to a complete stop. And yes the brake lights will come on, even though you didn’t touch the brake pedal. For those that desire less aggressive brake regeneration, Nissan still offers the normal Drive mode and Brake mode (and ECO mode) that have been a part of LEAF for years. With these various drive modes the driver can select the right mode for each unique driving situation. You might not want aggressive regen on the freeway but you could engage the e-Pedal in around town driving. Tailor your drive mode for the moment.

2018 Nissan LEAF ProPILOT Assist

ProPILOT Assist Display (Non-LEAF)

ProPILOT Assist Display (Non-LEAF)

ProPILOT Assist button

ProPILOT Assist button

This is where we get into the beginnings of autonomous driving technology. Nissan is careful to label the technology driver assist, not self-driving technology, although the company is moving in that direction over the next several years. I’ve had the opportunity to drive a car with this technology and it’s pretty impressive. Here is a video if you prefer watching videos.

ProPILOT Infographic

ProPILOT Assist is single-lane driving assistance. That is, press a button to turn the system on. Press another button to set your speed once you’ve reached your target speed. You may adjust your following distance with the press of a third button. Once engaged, the system uses a camera mounted ahead of the rear view mirror to look for the lane markers on the road. If it cannot clearly see these lane markers, the system will not engage. That’s it. When engaged, the vehicle will now speed up and slow down based on the traffic ahead of it. Steering assistance will keep you between the lane markers. Nissan states that it is a hands-on driver assist system rather than a self-driving feature. Indeed, sensors are built into the steering wheel and if you remove your hands for an extended period of time you will receive a visual warning on the dash, followed by an audible chime that beeps slowly, then faster, before disengaging the system.

Looking to model year 2019

Nissan rarely comments on future vehicle technology. The fact that they state the availability of key features right up front is to counter the argument that it won’t go as far as the Bolt or Tesla Model 3. While this is true today, it likely will not be true next year. And today it costs significantly less than either of those two. Nissan has also said that the 2019 LEAF will have a high-power version available for the 2019 model year. While I don’t know that anyone would consider the LEAF to be a performance car, the fact that Teslas are quick certainly works to their advantage. Having a quicker LEAF that looks better than the current car (and arguably, the Bolt) will have appeal for many.

With the car being released in the Japanese home market first, it looks like they are getting some tech that we are not seeing in the early US market cars. The Japanese reveal shows self-parking technology that hasn’t been talked about for US built LEAFs. This is likely a feature that we will see at some point down the road. The home market also gets a pale metallic green LEAF that is not part of the US color palette. That could change in a year.

In summary

After being in the car at the San Diego National Drive Electric Week event, and upon a careful reading of Nissan’s available info, I can confidently say that this is a significant redesign of the existing platform. Regarding the chassis, the company says “Nissan engineers enhanced the car’s chassis for better stability.” They did not say this is an all new car. In essence that means the passenger compartment is the same though it offers an all new dash, seats, and improved materials and features. Virtually the whole of the exterior gets new sheet metal. For this, many of us are happy.

Which brings me to my final point. The (hopefully) 60 kWh battery will have significant chemistry and packaging improvements to fit inside a case that will be very similar in size to the battery case sitting under the car now. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why the one year delay. They need to be able to see how much juice they can fit in a box that size. It needs to be enough to provide a 200 mile EPA range to please the non-EV masses. The question is – which one will you get? Will you get the 40 kWh LEAF now or wait for the larger battery, higher power version coming next year?

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40kWh 2018 LEAF

Intelligent Mobility

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.


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