The 2018 Nissan LEAF Is a Placeholder for a Longer-Range Version Coming Next Year

By · July 19, 2018

2018 Nissan LEAF

2018 Nissan LEAF

The 2018 Nissan LEAF electric car, introduced at the beginning of this year, was a big step forward for the model. Compared to the outgoing first-generation version, the new LEAF’s driving range jumped from a so-so 107 miles to a respectable 151 miles on a single charge. The combination of longer range, a more stylish design, and an attractive base price below $30,000—before incentives—makes the LEAF a worthwhile consideration.

Nonetheless, it was clear from the beginning—presumably even to Nissan—that the improvements would not be enough to close the deal for most U.S. consumers. Not when EV buyers have better options like the 238-mile Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla’s long-range EVs.

So it appears, based on several media reports, that Nissan will not wait for another generation of the LEAF to introduce major improvements. Rather than putting off a jump in range and power for a product cycle that commonly takes four years or longer in the automotive industry, Nissan will increase the driving range of the very next model year, the 2019 LEAF, to more than 200 miles. Amen.

The plan is to up the size of the current 40-kWh battery pack to 60 kilowatt-hours. That should increase the LEAF’s range to the same number as the Chevy Bolt, which also has a 60-kWh pack. The Bolt is rated for 238 miles of range per charge. As unconfirmed media reports indicated this week, the larger pack will also allow Nissan to boost the car’s power to 200 horsepower (from 147 ponies). Lo and behold, the Chevy Bolt also produces 200 horsepower.

Carlos Ghosn in Chevy Bolt

Carlos Ghosn, chairman of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance, gets his first up-close look at the Chevrolet Bolt, at the 2016 Detroit auto show. (Photo: Bradley Berman)

Nissan is also apparently improving charging times for the LEAF. That’s important for a big-battery EV. It’s also a smart move considering that the BBC last month reported that U.K. owners of the Nissan LEAF complained that the car is taking longer to charge than was advertised. Nissan advertising promised that, by using a highway-based quick charger, the car could be charged from empty to 80-percent in about 40 minutes. As most experienced EV drivers of all makes fully understand, the fastest rate of charging is under ideal conditions and should not be expected. Some U.K. drivers got upset when they waited an hour or two to bring up the battery’s state-of-charge.

Meanwhile, Nissan has to live with what could be considered a lame-duck 2018 model. The answer might be found in markets outside the United States, where the EV competition is not as stiff. Nissan proclaimed this week that Europeans registered more than 18,000 LEAF vehicles through June of this year. That’s about triple the number of new LEAF customers in the United States in 2018. Sales in Japan are also brisk. In other words, Nissan can bide its time overseas until the company can deliver the next version of the LEAF.

The remaining question is if a 2019 LEAF, which will bring the car’s range and power to parity with competing models like the Bolt, will be enough for Nissan to reclaim the leadership that it had a few years ago—and unfortunately let slip. As recently as 2014, Nissan racked up more than 30,000 new U.S. owners in a single year. That nearly doubled the number of sales of its closest EV rival back then—the Tesla Model S.

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