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Nissan takes on Tesla with new LEAF, in new era for electric vehicles

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Global car maker Nissan has unveiled the next generation LEAF: a “completely reinvented” version of its world-wide best-selling fully electric vehicle, which includes a 400km range – more than double the 172km range of the previous model – boosted acceleration and a range of new drive technologies, for a price starting at $US28,992.

Nissan LEAF_06

The arrival of the new LEAF, formally launched in Japan on Wednesday morning, has been highly anticipated, as a key player in the nascent market for mainstream electric cars – a market that has been virtually non-existent in Australia over the past 12 months.

It also puts the Japanese car maker toe to toe with Tesla, whose Model 3 EV – the California company’s first pitch at the mass EV market – began shipping to US customers in late July, with a price tag of between $US35,000-$US44,000, and a range of 354km or near 500km, respectively.

The standard Model 3, with 354km range, has acceleration of 0-100km/h in 5.6 seconds while the model with a 498km range can get from 0-100km/h in 5.1 seconds.

“You will not find another car either gasoline or electric car that is anywhere near as great,” Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk said at the Model 3 launch.

That said (and even if Elon does say so himself) the race will be on for the Australian market, with the Model 3 not expected to land here until 2019 – extending the drought of mid-range EV options plaguing the country.

Nissan says the new LEAF will be sold in Japan from October 2, 2017, and globally from 2018 – but Nissan Australia was keen to note that the Australian release date is yet to be announced.

Chief among the new LEAF’s bells and whistles are the Nissan Intelligent Driving technology additions of ProPILOT, ProPILOT Park, e-Pedal, as well as the Nissan Safety Shield.

Nissan LEAF_40

ProPILOT is Nissan’s take on autonomous driving technology, which – once activated – can automatically control the distance to the vehicle in front, can help the driver steer and keep the car centered in its lane, and will brake automatically if the car in front comes to a sudden stop.

ProPILOT Park, as it’s name suggests, is an automated parking function, which – guided by four high-res cameras and 12 “ultrasonic” sensors – controls acceleration, brakes, handling, shift changing and parking brakes to guide the car into a parking spot.

The system can also automatically identify a parking space around the car so that the driver doesn’t need to set a target parking position, thus, says Nissan, “liberating drivers from one of the most tedious, and at times the most challenging, tasks of driving.”

The third innovation featured in the new LEAF is the e-Pedal, which is offered as standard equipment allowing drivers to start, accelerate, decelerate and stop the car using the accelerator pedal only.

Tesla EVs offer their own version of this technology – which is pleasingly intuitive to use and a great way to save on brake maintenance – along with regenerative braking.  

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  • Ren Stimpy

    The delay is probably because of the right-hand drive. Here’s where Australia could position itself as a manufacturing hub for the RHD versions of Teslas, Leafs (Leaves?) and other EVs to get them into RHD vehicle markets (Britain, Australia, Singapore, etc.) sooner.

    • The_Lorax

      Japan drives on the left.

      • Ren Stimpy

        Thanks, there’s another large market. Japanese manufacturers generally have pivoted (wrongly) towards hydrogen powered vehicles for the clean energy transport market, so that’s a very large market of people who would buy our manufactured RHD full-EVs for several years until their own manufacturers wise up to the sluggishness and inefficiency of hydrogen powered cars. Nissan itself probably being totally preoccupied with manufacturing LHD Leafs for the US and Europe.

        • Andy Simpson

          Picture appears to be RHD

      • Roger Brown

        UK have had Leafs since 2011-12 and drive on the left .

    • Roger Brown

      Tesla do a RHD already for Australia . I spotted one (Model S 100D ) yesterday in Sunnybank qld . They have a dealership in Brisbane .

      • Ren Stimpy

        But that’s kind of niche. I was thinking more mainstream and mass-production i.e. Model 3.

      • Scottman

        Yeah I saw 1 too $258000. Crikey I’ll buy 2.

        • Ren Stimpy

          The Tesla Model 3 is just $35,000 in the US.

          • Greg Hudson

            Add exchange rate, import duty, GST, luxury car tax (depending on options) and we will be looking at AU$70k+ I reckon. (I have one on reserve). Mind you, I’m sure it will be a lot better than the $73k 1997 BMW Z3 I bought (at the dealer 36 times for warranty repairs etc)

          • Ren Stimpy

            If we were a Tesla or Leaf manufacturing outpost for the neglected RHD market of lower-cost EVs, there wouldn’t be any import duty nor luxury car tax, and a locally produced EV isn’t affected by the exchange rate. Also if the government had the cojones to put in place vehicle emission standards that are aligned with the rest of the civilised world, our (potential) EV manufacturing could not only thrive but hugely benefit local transport, providing hugely cheaper operating cost transport (in terms of fuel and maintenance) and also a massive new export market.

            Turnbull has visited a Tesla manufacturing plant and was reportedly in awe. Was he just another awe-struck flipping tourist? Didn’t it occur to him at the time, as Prime Minister, to maybe try to attract some Tesla investment/manufacturing volume to set up Down Under?

  • trackdaze

    Vehicle also has V2G which could replace liddel as reserve capacity by 2022.

    • Marc Talloen

      For me the appeal of V2H is more important as your car batteries can have a function of standby energy for the house. Allows you to add a smaller battery to your PV system.

  • Robert Comerford

    Sounds like a sensible vehicle with usable range at last and some good safety features.
    How fast can it be charged from empty is a question I certainly need to know.
    Mind you, it is irrelevant as there is currently no fast charging network installed at suitable intervals around the country.

    • Roger Brown

      Queensland is planning to build a “Electric Highway” From Springfield up to Cairns .

      • Mal Goon Chew

        Construction has started. The Cairns charger was the 1st to be installed.

    • Greenfanatic

      UQ has already installed two, one at St Lucia and another in Gatton and its free.
      http://www.uq.edu.au/sustainability/ev

    • trackdaze

      40 mins from battery low light to 80% charge. Which is all you want mostly.

      80% of charging is typically done at home time to charge? takes all of 1min to plug it in. And 1min to unplug it the next morning.

    • Roger Brown

      Install a 3 phase unit (6kw) = 8 hrs . Plug it in at night and drive away in the morning with a full tank !

      • Charles

        You don’t even need 3-phase. A 7 kW single phase supply is fine.
        But even that is often overkill. I have a current model Leaf which doesn’t charge any faster than 3.3kW. I use a 2.4kW (10A) EVSE (fancy name for “the cable”) to top it up overnight. It’s on a timer to not start charging until 10pm, sometimes I don’t plug it in until I go to bed at midnight, it has never not been ready again by the morning. Of course this new model has a bigger battery but it is unlikely my driving habits would change just because of this.
        I have a 3.6kW (15A) EVSE that I could use to charge faster, but what’s the point? I keep that one in the boot as I don’t need to charge faster at home, it’s more useful when you’re away from home.

  • Roger Brown

    IF Nissan bring the new Leaf into Australia , they should bring in the E-NV 200 /350 van as well , as they use the same chassis and front of the Leaf . 400 km range , I would buy one – E-NV200/350 Van .

  • Ronald Brakels

    The battery capacity has been given as 40 kilowatt-hours. Unless that is wrong its range definitely won’t be 400 km. Getting 7 kilometers per kilowatt-hour under normal driving conditions with an electric car is excellent and 10 is simply not realistic for normal driving.

    • Ren Stimpy

      Regenerative braking?

      • Roger Brown

        E-Pedal !

      • Ronald Brakels

        The US EPA range for the 2016 30 kilowatt-hour Leaf is 5.7 kilometers per kilowatt-hour. Nissan may have improved on that, including improvements to regenerative braking, but it’s not going to result in a 75% improvement in range per kilowatt-hour.

        • Ren Stimpy

          What about a 43% improvement?

          • Ronald Brakels

            If you were building the 2016 Nissan Leaf, would you leave a 43% improvement in range lying on the table?

          • Ren Stimpy

            Is a 43% improvement nothing to be sneezed at?

          • Ronald Brakels

            It’s just really difficult to do.

          • Ren Stimpy

            Yet they have (somehow) done it.

          • Ronald Brakels

            It’s range is given as 150 miles in the US. That’s 6 kilometers per kilowatt-hour of battery capacity. That is a 5% improvement over the 2016 Leaf. (Overlooking that we’d need to know the usable capacities of the batteries to do a proper comparison.)

          • Ren Stimpy

            Does that include the additional capacity added via regenerative braking?

          • Ronald Brakels

            That’s just what I’ve seen on the internet. I can’t be certain it is correct. But the Leaf already had regenerative braking.

          • Alastair Leith

            secret PV on the roof?

          • Ronald Brakels

            Front wheels could be lower than the rear wheels so it’s always traveling down hill.

    • Richard

      I’ve got a 2013 iMiev. Before we bought it everything we read suggested ‘real world’ range of a bit over 100km but we regularly get 140km out of the 16kW battery. All drivers, EV and ICE should learn to go easy on the pedal. Maybe then this range anxiety wouldn’t be the supposed problem it is. Cant understand why there is no demand for a small, lightweight EV. I don’t need to get to 100km/h in less than 4 seconds!

      • Greg Hudson

        Agreed, 4 seconds is too quick, but the iMiev time of 6 months is a little geriatric 😉

        • Richard

          Actually can’t remember the last time it actually got to 100k so 6 months is not out of the question. But for driving in urban areas, I reckon most people would be very surprised with how responsive and quick it is especially with just one occupant.

    • Roger Brown

      That’s still 280 km ?

      • Ronald Brakels

        US EPA range is 150 miles which is 240 kilometers.

    • Charles

      Correct, the 400 km range is by some Japanese standard which is completely unrealistic, 240 km has been given as a “realistic” equivalent.

  • Mike Pollitt

    Not sure where the claimed 400km range comes from. Range quoted in other articles is 150 miles which is 240km.

    I drive Leaf v1 and with real world range of about 90-110km, pretty much never have range problems with daily drive. An extra 50-100km would be ample and would remove the “pretty much”. Would happily take reduced range over the Model 3’s higher price point.

    Have driven UK and AU Leaf. UK Leaf is made in the UK and had higher build quality and options. AU Leaf is made in Japan and still OK but seemingly less solid and lower optioned. However that’s a data point of one. Hope they tune the suspension harder (as Jalopnik claim) for better handling in the new version however.

    • trackdaze

      The japanese test cycle is obviously downhill.

    • David Osmond

      Looks like the 400km range is based on the Japanese test cycle, which seems to be very optimistic. Based on the battery size of 40kWh, 240km seems much more realistic.

      • Sally Noel Triggell

        We would be satisfied with 240km range. Our current Getz is very fuel efficient less than 5.5 l /100 km. We have been setting the odometer every trip now for over 2 years and all trips have been under 90 klms. Add up all trips for the week and we still would have range to spare. Coupled with our 6.5 kw solar system, would be great, if only the price is reasonable. Not too sure that will be the case as Australia seems to be ripe for picking to most companies. Would just love to pull into the servo to only top up the tyres.

  • Robert Comerford

    If the range is only really 240k and it takes 40 mins to charge ( even if there were chargers where needed) then it still not a sensible buy for many of us.

  • Roger Brown

    Nissan said they would bring out a LONG RANGE later on , but even the 1st batch will be 240+ km range (AU). 110kw / 320 Nm at about AU$36K ? That would be my “Behind the meter, battery back -up !” and I would get a 3 phase line put in for charging .

    • Greg Hudson

      You don’t need 3 phase. Single phase, used over night will do the trick (at 240 volts).

  • OnionMan77

    This weird rumour of the new Leaf having a magical 400km range needs a comprehensive conspiracy theory.
    The 400 km range is in Japanese kilometers (by the Japanese EV standard). The reason the Japanese bullet trains seem to travel so fast is that the Japanese km seems to be defined as 5/8 of a standard km.

  • Robert Comerford

    So sadly unless you have a Tesla and are in a country with a supercharger network there is still no other option but to have a hybrid.
    This is just a city car or one for those countries the size of a decent cattle station.
    I’m sure it will prove a good choice for those who only do short trips.

    • Greg Hudson
      • Robert Comerford

        I’m afraid your definition of a network and mine are vastly different Greg. :>)
        That hardly scratches the surface.

        • Greg Hudson

          Elon has said that by the end of 2018 we ‘should’ be able to drive right around the country using the SC network, which, BTW is still currently bigger than any competitors offering (i.e. there are no competitors). Once the 7000+ Aussie Model 3’s hit the road, you will probably see a mass expansion of SC’s happening. Currently, you can drive from Brisbane to Sydney, then Melb, and part way to Adelaide, all for FREE (with a model S or X). All competitors must pay for their power, take 4+ times longer to charge, and use only non fast chargers. Long distance is ‘possible’ with other brands, but severely limited IMO (much more so than if you are driving a Tesla).
          Remember also that you can charge your Tesla from the solar panels on your cattle station, and drive for free for approx 500km (250km each way).
          How long before you have Tesla branded tractors (fully automated of course) so you can sit in your homestead and watch everything happen to your wheat, canola, cotton, or whatever… Then load it all into your battery powered Tesla semi to take to market…
          The world is changing. You need to get with the program, and forget about your silly little plug in hybrids.
          Note: I have a Tesla Model 3 on order, and own Tesla shares.

          • Robert Comerford

            My guess is you live on the south east coast, your Tesla is not much use for most of Australia. Try waking up in a motel in (say) Lake Cargelligo and heading off to Cunnamulla or Inverell and see how far you get with this Nissan. I’ll take my not so silly hybrid anytime, I have better things to do than sit around for hours even if I can find a charging point. There is no guarantee that there will be a ubiquitous charging network anytime soon so using as little fossil fuel as possible by using a hybrid is a responsible option.

          • neroden

            In the short run, a plug-in hybrid with a large battery (like the Chevrolet Volt) is a reasonable option.

            In the long run… do you think gasoline will be easy to get?
            Gasoline is going away. Delivering gasoline to far rural areas is an expensive and unprofitable operation.

            When those rural gas stations disappear, you could always drive to Sydney and bring back your own barrels of gasoline, but that’s kind of ridiculous. Much easier to charge off your solar panels at home.

            One thing people forget is that electricity is much, much more widespread than gasoline.

            Most people should get an all-electric car, but if you need to, get a plug-in hybrid which is *mostly* electric. You don’t want to depend on the disappearing gasoline distribution network.

          • Robert Comerford

            By the time the petrol stations disappear the hybrid will be due for retirement so it will have long served its purpose.