While other electric vehicles have dominated the headlines over the past year, Nissan has quietly been chugging away at a new version of the top-selling Leaf EV. The second-generation Leaf will arrive at dealerships in early 2018, with improved range, a more powerful motor, and a host of advanced driver aids.
On the hardware side, the new Leaf's 40-kWh lithium-ion battery pack offers up to 150 miles of range (up from 107 miles) while the electric motor now delivers 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque (up from 107 hp and 187 lb-ft). According to Nissan, the improvements under the hood — or in this case, the floor — allow for much quicker acceleration both from a stop and while in motion. The zero-to-60-mph sprint is said to be 15 percent quicker, so figure a time of around 8.5 seconds. (The previous Leaf managed a time of 10.2 seconds in Edmunds testing.)
There are a handful of new driver assistance features, some of which are unique to the Leaf. One is called ProPilot Assist, which combines adaptive cruise control, lane departure intervention, and an emergency braking system to help reduce fatigue in low-speed driving situations. It maintains a set distance between the Leaf and the car in front, in addition to keeping the Leaf centered in the lane and braking to a full stop if necessary.
Another new feature is called E-Pedal, which allows the driver to control both acceleration and braking with a single pedal. It speeds the Leaf up like a normal car when pressed down, but when the driver's foot is removed, both regenerative and friction brakes are applied to slow the vehicle down. It will come to a complete stop and remain stopped until the accelerator is pressed again.
The Nissan Leaf will face significant challenges in the EV market when it launches early next year in all 50 states. The Tesla Model 3 and Chevrolet Bolt offer greater range — 220 and 238 miles from a full charge, respectively — though they are both more expensive than the Leaf, which will start at a base price of $30,875.
Nissan also announced that it will offer a Leaf with more power and greater range starting with the 2019 model year.
Unless you have a killer commute or plan on taking your EV on lengthy road trips, the Leaf with its standard battery pack should fit your driving requirements. Its comparatively low price and wealth of driver aids add to its value proposition, especially when you consider that even in its top-trim SL form, the Leaf costs about the same as the Bolt and Model 3 in their base configurations.