Monday 27 March 2017

How Leaf went further after Nissan added 50km to its range

First Drive: Nissan Leaf 300kWh

Extended range: Nissan Leaf
Extended range: Nissan Leaf
Power input
Leaf cabin

Cathal Doyle

You may be interested in the latest offering from Nissan if you've been thinking of joining the electric-car revolution, but have found range limits too restrictive.

It is a position quite a few people now find themselves in.

That's why the latest extended-range Leaf 30kWh from Nissan may make a difference to those who feel they need another 50km or so in range, for peace of mind.

The 30kWh comes with a bigger battery. And that, Nissan says, allows it to travel for up to 250km between charges.

To put that in context: this should be able to cover 26pc more ground than the existing one - which has a claimed range of 199km.

The 30kWh version is due in Ireland by December - in time for 161-registration sales.

And it will be sold alongside the existing Leaf 24kWh. However, be warned, it will cost €3,000 more.

The Leaf itself has been a success in Ireland, with 400 sold so far this year.

The total since its arrival is fast approaching 1,000 now. That may not seem like an overwhelming figure, but in terms of volume, Irish sales of the car are the sixth-largest in the whole of Europe.

As well as going further, the new 30kWh Leaf also benefits from an improved battery warranty of up to eight years/160,000km.

That compares favourably with the five-year/100,000km warranty which will continue on the 24 kWh version.

Meanwhile, both 24 kWh and 30 kWh models get a new NissanConnect EV infotainment system. It comes as standard in range-topping SVE trim and is an optional extra on SV models.

It comprises a 7-inch touch-screen and has a revised navigation system, maintenance alerts and a car-finder facility.

So where does the increase in range come from? It is courtesy of - be prepared for a mouthful - a new Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (LMC) Cathode instead of the previous Lithium Manganese Oxide (LMO) Cathode.

Battery dimensions remain the same as before, though there's a modest weight increase of 21kg.

Performance figures are also unchanged, with the Leaf accelerating from 0-100kmh in 11.5 seconds up to a top speed of almost 145kmh.

To put the new version to a real-world test, Nissan sent us to the top of the Col De Turini in the hills overlooking Nice in the south of France.

It is, as you may know, the route of the famous stage on the Monte Carlo Rally.

Climbing steeply to an altitude of 1,607 metres on kilometre after kilometre of narrow twisty roads, it was hardly the natural environment for an all-electric car trial.

Indeed, by the time we had reached the top of the Col, after negotiating 80km of near-continuous uphill hairpins, the Leaf was telling us there was only 33km range left.

And with the same distance still left to travel back down to base, you wouldn't blame us for suffering from a major bout of range anxiety.

However, thanks to the efficiency of the regeneration system (brakes, engine), we recouped nearly all of that charge on the downhill section.

Which means that at journey's end we'd travelled more than 160km and still had an estimated range of 75km left.

So Nissan's claims of 250km do seem feasible - but it will depend very much on the type of journey you have to make.

Otherwise, the Leaf was the familiar blend of effortless, whisper-quiet progression we've come to expect from EVs. It's easy to see why it consistently scores high on customer-satisfaction ratings.

My only gripe from a driving experience is the substantial A-pillars, which rather restrict forward vision.

Prices for the Leaf 30kWh start from €26,990 in SV trim and €29,390 for the SVE. The more powerful battery is not available in entry-level XE spec. The Leaf 24 kWh starts from €21,490.

An all-new Leaf is expected in 2017, with Nissan showing a concept car at this week's Tokyo Motor Show rumoured to be the next generation of the best-selling EV.

Until then, the Leaf 30 kWh is likely to widen the appeal of Ireland's best selling electric car.

Indo Motoring

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