As the summer draws to a close, Nissan is announcing what was reported as likely late May, that the Leaf will come in two trim levels offering 107-mile range.
Actually, the report then said “over 105″ estimated miles, and spot on was the advance notice that a new 30-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery would be offered.
The two versions which will receive this new battery occupying the same space as their former 24-kwh pack are the SV and SL. The S model will retain the pre-existing 24-kwh battery for 84 miles EPA estimated range. Also new is an 8 year/100,000 mile battery warranty for the upgraded trim levels.
Going out with a Bang
This will also be the first time two different batteries and range options are offered for the Leaf.
The Leaf was launched Dec. 2010 and while Nissan did not say so in advance press materials, it is believed this will be the last year for the best-selling EV before a next-generation Leaf with even more range is introduced.
Globally, Nissan has sold around 200,000 Leafs. In EV sales terms, this is a smash hit, though more bullish projections made earlier on were clipped back.
As the second-generation 2016 Chevy Volt with 53 miles EV range is also due this year, Nissan is upping its game to increase competitiveness, and prior to a 200-plus-mile range battery believed pending for 2017.
The new 30-kwh battery comes along with updates to trim and infotainment, but this is still a generation-one Leaf.
As for the 30-kwh battery, Nissan says it has improved the structure of the laminated lithium-ion battery cells. This includes improved electrode material and a “revised” chemistry with higher power density along with enhanced durability following charging and discharging.
The 30 kwh battery’s modules contain eight newly designed cells per module (192 cells total). This contrasts with the 24-kwh battery which is composed of four cells per module (192 cells total).
Nissan says the thin, compact laminated cells offer more packaging flexibility and design applications. Weight for the 30-kwh battery pack is only 46 pounds more.
“The new battery offers more advantages than just the 27 percent increase in driving range – it also offers improved battery performance,” said Andrew Speaker, director, Nissan EV Sales & Marketing, Nissan North America, Inc. “Nissan has been a leading developer of lithium-ion battery technology for more than 20 years. The new Leaf battery is a great example of how rather than just increasing battery capacity, we’ve achieved a balance between capacity, packaging, durability and affordability.”
No changes to the thermal management system have been made, and notably absent on the Leaf compared to other EVs is liquid cooling. Practically, this won’t matter for a short-term lease, but buyers who like to drive a car till the wheels fall off, as the saying goes, may have more to be concerned about, though Nissan stresses warranty protection.
As for charging, several options as before are available. Standard is a charge port light and lock, and beyond level 1 and 2, the S has optionally available DC Quick charging, and this is standard on the SV and SL.
The SV and SL grades include a 6.6-kilowatt onboard charger. At 240 volts, recharge to 100 percent in about six hours. This charger is optionallty available with the S, and standard is a 3.6 kilowatt onboard charger.
Unchanged is the core front-wheel-drive, single-speed powertrain comprised of a 80-kilowatt AC synchronous motor. This is rated for 107 horsepower and 187 pound-feet of torque.
The range increase is also the second increase for the Leaf. Model years 2011-2012 were rated 73 miles, and when U.S. production began in 2013, the Leaf’s existing battery was tweaked for more range.
Now with as much as 107 miles rated range, the vehicle has benefitted from technological advances and lessons learned along the way.
NissanConnect comes standard on S models with a 5.0-inch color display.
The updated SV and SL grades add NissanConnect with Navigation, Mobile Apps and other functions.
A 7.0-inch color display is included with multi-touch control, along with Nissan Voice Recognition for navigation and audio, HD radio, and Sirius Travel Link for weather, fuel prices, movie listings, stock info and sports (SiriusXM subscription required, sold separately).
Now charging screen information is automatically updated every time the ignition is turned on after every 12 miles of driving.
“The enhancements to the 2016 Leaf in terms of graphic interface design and user friendliness are significant,” added Speaker. “We’ve listened to our owners and added features they can use every day, such as the automatic updating of charging stations while driving and one-shot destination entry with voice recognition.”
Keeping its Edge While Looking Ahead
Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has said the company will be ready to compete also with the 200-plus-mile Chevy Bolt when that car comes along. Also due is the Tesla Model 3 in 2017.
In the mean time, this is the first EV in this price category Nissan says to offer a full 100-plus-mile range.
Pricing for the base S level is $29,010 as before and the new SV and SL trim levels will fetch between $1,600 to $2,100 more than a 2015 SV’s $32,100 and the SL’s $35,120.