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.
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.
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.