European-Specific Nissan Leaf To Be Unveiled In Geneva

How different will the European Nissan Leaf be from its U.S. counterpart? The revised electric car will be unveiled next week in Geneva for the European market.

Just like U.S. market Nissan Leafs are now built in Tennessee, European-market Leafs will be built closer to their intended market, at Nissan’s Sunderland facility in the UK.

Nissan said it has a longer range, is more practical, better to drive and has even more equipment.

European production of the new model will soon start at Nissan’s Sunderland production facility with more than one hundred changes made to the electric car.

Improvements include an extended driving range, greater recyclability, more interior space, better charging performance, more equipment and greater choice with three versions now available.

Subtle styling changes to the nose of the car have improved its aerodynamic efficiency.

Many of the changes have come as a direct result of feedback from Leaf owners.

In addition to owner input, Nissan has been able to get feedback from aggregated data from the unique Carwings telematics system, which is at the heart of the Leaf. This feature logs information on charging, usage patterns and distance driven.

With the Leaf having been on sale for more than two years, and having delivered more than 50,000 units globally, engineers at Nissan have been able to use some of the data collected to optimize the car in line with actual customer usage.

Changes range from a new powertrain assembly that greatly enhances the car’s practicality to simple modifications, such as the addition of a LED light within the charging port making overnight charging that much easier..

Nissan is also providing a new comprehensive warranty plan for the batteries. As well as covering the batteries against defects in materials and workmanship for five years/100,000 kms (60,000 miles), batteries will be covered by a ‘State Of Health’ clause which covers gradual capacity loss.

Over time, lithium-ion batteries lose a percentage of their capacity, a natural phenomenon. But should battery life reduce quicker than anticipated over the same warranty period it will either be repaired or replaced.

One significant change to the 2013 Nissan Leaf is the move to producing the car in three different locations: North America, Europe and Japan.

In Europe, production will start this spring, as mentioned, in Sunderland in the UK, where the Leaf will be sharing the line with Qashqai and joining Note and Juke.

At the same time, the lithium-ion batteries are already being produced at a new facility nearby on the Sunderland site.

“By sourcing Nissan Leaf and its batteries in Europe, we are underlining our faith not just in the ability of the Sunderland facility to build our most technically advanced car, but also in the fact that electric vehicles can be considered a genuine alternative to conventionally powered vehicles,” said Willcox. “In its two years on sale, the global success of Nissan Leaf has shown that electric vehicles offer viable everyday transport for people with a typical daily commute.

The revised Leaf, which goes on sale in Europe in the middle of 2013, marks an important milestone in Nissan’s global zero-emission leadership. It will soon be joined by pure electric versions of the NV200, to be called e-NV200, in both light commercial van and seven-seat combi versions.

Development is also underway on a dedicated EV taxi based on the e-NV200 while an Infiniti EV is expected in 2015.

Changes to the Euro Leaf

Now assembled together as a single stack, the new powertrain is still an 80 kilowatt AC synchronous motor linked to a Nissan-designed 48-module compact lithium-ion battery, mounted underneath the cabin area to lower the center of gravity.

Leaf_Euro_TrunkBy moving the charger from the rear of the Leaf to under the hood, Nissan has been able to increase the size of the trunk. This means there is now no obstacle in the middle of the cargo area when the seats are folded, while rear legroom has been increased thanks to reshaped seat cushions, which allow passengers in the rear to put their feet under the seat in front.

Improvements to the heating and ventilation system are based on a new heat pump system which replaces the original ceramic heater. This significantly reduces electrical consumption and delivers an improvement in real-world driving range. This is particularly relevant to markets where drivers rely heavily on the heating and ventilation systems.

The revised Leaf’s real-world driving range has also been improved by the only visual change to the car: a subtly revised front grille helps reduce the aerodynamic drag coefficient from 0.29 to 0.28.

The new Leaf’s driving range is certified at 124 miles (200km) under the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC); the previous model was rated at 109 miles (175 km).

The revised Leaf is said to be more fun to drive thanks to changes to the chassis, steering and brakes engineered at Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE). Main changes have been to damper settings to reduce float and deliver a more agile and dynamic drive without affecting ride comfort. The steering system has been given more weight to provide steering feel more in tune with European tastes while the performance of the brakes has been improved to make them more progressive in use, while also increasing the amount of energy recovered.

Changes have also been made to the Eco driving mode.  A new “B” setting on the transmission increases regenerative braking during deceleration while a separate “Eco” button on the steering wheel extends driving range by altering the throttle mapping to discourage rapid acceleration. The two systems can be operated independently of one another, unlike in the original Leaf.

Other key improvements to the Leaf’s e-Powertrain include reduced internal friction and a more efficient battery and energy management system.

Reduced charging time is also promised by a new option that will cut the conventional charging length in half, from eight to four hours. A new 6.6-kilowatt on-board charger will permit the use of 32-amp charging using the latest generation of chargers installed in domestic and commercial properties. A typical European domestic plug delivers 10 amps.

Other technical innovation enhancements include the new Bose audio system specifically developed for the Leaf and also available on the North American version.

Nissan’s Around View Monitor is another technical innovation now found on the Leaf. This system uses a network of cameras to generate a 360-degree overhead image of the car on the central display, simplifying parking or any difficult maneuvers.

Changes inside include the seats. As well as being redesigned for better support, the front seats now incorporate height adjustment, while a new bio-fabric covering has been introduced.

Where the original model featured material made from 39 percent recycled plastic bottles, the new bio-fabric is 100-percent derived from sugar cane, further improving the Leaf’s overall recyclability and environmental credentials. Leather is also now available, as is a darker and more practical interior finish.

Leaf_Euro_Plug-668The charging port has been reworked to improve usability and security and its release mechanism now uses an electric switch. Additionally, the charge cable now features an electro-mechanical locking mechanism that removes the requirement to lock the cable to the car manually.

Other detail enhancements include a new i-Key that also controls the charging port cover and cable lock.

These significant updates are incorporated as part of a major range expansion that sees the Leaf adopt the European Nissan three-tier trim line-up of Visia, Acenta and Tekna.

The Visia version offers a lower price entry point while Tekna models feature even more standard equipment than the original model.

Visia models have 16-inch steel wheels with full covers, black door mirror caps and halogen headlights, for example. Acenta versions have 16-inch alloy wheels, suede fabric seat trim, body colored mirror caps and rear privacy glass.

As well as having leather seats as standard, Tekna models come with 17-inch alloy wheels as standard, LED headlights, the Bose sound system and AVM. A new color palette for all versions now extends to seven different colors with solid, pearl and metallic finishes.