Johannesburg - Nissan has revealed its second generation Leaf EV (electric vehicle), and as expected the new car is lighter, more powerful and can go quite a lot further on a single battery charge.

We suspect the new model is actually a major rework of the six-year-old current version, because Nissan makes mention of adjustments to chassis, steering and suspension components, rather than descriptions of all new parts. Still, this version’s updated styling goes a long way to make the eco-friendly vehicle fit in with today’s sharper image.

The new Leaf gets a 40kWh battery in place of the old one’s 30kWh, and it still runs down the centre of the floor where a normal car’s gearbox tunnel would be. The power bump means outputs of the front-mounted electric motor are now up to 110kW and 320Nm from 80kW and 254Nm. Nissan hasn’t offered any 0-100km/h acceleration claims, so we can’t compare it to the current model’s 11.5 second figure, but we do know that top speed is unchanged at 144km/h.

More important than performance, however, is the claimed range and this has been improved quite substantially. Where the current model quotes around 250km on a single charge, this one can do up to 378km according to Nissan - although, as with all EVs, this number will probably come down in real world conditions. Nissan says a Leaf with an even bigger battery, to give more range, will be released in late 2018.

Some new technologies have also been incorporated, and a new ProPilot feature will safely keep a following distance at highway speeds, automatically brake the car if traffic slows (or stops) and gently assist with steering to help a driver stay in a single lane. Nothing revolutionary here, as these functions can be had in all sorts of vehicles for sale today.

New ProPilot feature will safely keep a following distance at highway speeds

Likewise the new ProPilot Park gadget, which will allow drivers to sit back while the Leaf slots itself into a parking bay. This feature is also available in plenty of relatively basic hatchbacks in today’s market.

Nissan calls the new Leaf’s e-Pedal a “cutting-edge innovation allowing you to drive and brake in a totally new and seamless way”, but by the sounds of it this new gizmo is just an exaggerated engine braking function.

We know from experience with EVs that the sensation in the throttle pedal is unusual compared to conventional, combustion-engined cars which coast quite freely when no pressure is applied. Electric cars tend not to coast when throttle is lifted, so maintaining a constant speed requires a steady right foot.

The Leaf’s e-Pedal takes this phenomenon a step further by applying regenerative and friction brakes when no throttle is applied, so it’s possible to decelerate and come to complete stops without ever pressing the brakes.

Nissan says the conventional brake pedal is there only for “aggressive braking situations”. It sounds like this might take some getting used to, but we’ll reserve judgement until we’ve tried it.

The cabin has also been suitably updated to match the modernised exterior, and here you’ll find a new 17.8cm central touchscreen that houses the multimedia, navigation and battery level displays. The infotainment system is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

There’s also a new smartphone app so the Leaf’s state of charge can be viewed remotely, and similarly to other “connected” cars it’s possible to condition the cabin with pre-heating or cooling ahead of a journey.

Nissan can’t confirm local introduction, but says it’s considering a date in the last quarter of next year. We presume availability is inevitable considering Nissan South Africa’s agreement with BMW SA to invest in local recharging infrastructure.

IOL Motoring
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