Nissan’s next Leaf will be more mainstream in style, significantly longer range, and will have an Infiniti sedan as an upscale distant cousin that might even give Tesla a run for its money.

These were some of the hints inferred from Nissan’s Andy Palmer speaking with Automotive News last month from the sidelines of the Beijing auto show.

Palmer is the company’s executive vice president in charge of zero emissions and Infiniti, and he said the next Leaf will need up to 186 miles range to compete with long-range fuel cell vehicles.

This and an Infiniti sedan that could have greater range due to the sedan’s more generous packaging layout would ultimately be made possible through improved battery chemistry.

“The battery chemistry is all about range and energy density. That’s where you see the technology moving very, very fast,” Palmer said. “This really is the game-changing technology.”

When will the new cars be here? What will they cost? What do they look like?

At present there are no definitive answers but one bit of info Palmer hinted is the Leaf could be here by 2017 as that would be timed with a normal product life cycle from 2013.

And while the original Leaf now looks like the quintessential EV, a new one will tone down the eco-look in favor of a style to appeal to mainstream buyers.

Nissan brand’s global design chief, Mamoru Aoki, said Tesla has shown an electric car need not scream “look at me” with a style that can be polarizing to some.

“The current Leaf is aiming too much at an EV-like appearance,” Aoki said. “Tesla doesn’t look EV at all. The Tesla S just looks nice, very sporty, sleek, but very authentic.”

The new Leaf and the new Infiniti will also feature inductive wireless charging, Palmer said.

Tesla Competitor?

Infiniti, Nissan’s high-line brand, had intended to release an all-electric sedan in 2014, but those plans are on hold.

At this point, Palmer suggested it may built sooner than the Leaf, at least in China if not also for roll out to the global markets as well.


“I think the EV will come earlier,” Palmer said, mentioning tightening government emissions rules, particularly in China. “To some extent, EV is now becoming practically a requirement.”

Nissan’s Concept LE (pictured) made the show circuit in 2012 and got some headlines for a while before things went quiet.

One thing the company never said was how an Infiniti only powered by the Leaf’s 24-kwh powertrain would meet the expectations of the automaker’s discriminating clientele.

Infiniti did state it would intend to do just that, which would mean the pending version could in theory be a more thoroughgoing attempt within the upscale performance e-sedan marketplace now dominated by Tesla’s Model S.

Now with promised “game changing” batteries, it appears Infiniti may have what it takes while in the mean time, Tesla may not be standing still either.

Automotive News