Sunday 19 August 2018

Nissan turn a new Leaf as drive to electric picks up speed

The five-door hatch is due to hit the Irish market next February.
The five-door hatch is due to hit the Irish market next February.
Nissan today unveiled their brand new electric Leaf.
Pricing will be critical for this new Nissan car.
The new Leaf’s arrives at a time when electric power is regarded as the ‘future of motoring’.

Eddie Cunningham, Tokyo

NISSAN today unveiled their brand new electric Leaf.

A significant departure from the current model on looks and power, the 5dr hatch is due to hit the Irish market next February.

At a time when electric power is regarded as the ‘future of motoring’, the new Leaf’s arrival could hardly be better timed.

It will be interesting to see how it fares in the new motoring climate.

The car’s new e-powertrain now gives it a 40kWh capacity (up 10kWh) which boosts its range to a claimed 378km (on the so-called ‘New’ European Driving Cycle) between charges.

You can expect price to be increased too when Irish details are released next month.

The current model starts at €21,490 for the 24kHh version (199km claimed range) and €24,490 for the 30kWh (250km range).

Interesting that the Japanese price will be ‘largely in line’ with the current one when new tech and spec are taken into account, officials here in Tokyo are saying. That sounds encouraging for Ireland too but taking tech and spec into account is usually what pushes up the price anyway. I think pricing will be critical for this new car and it will be interesting to see how keenly the Irish distributors can pitch it.

In terms of drive, the figures suggest it should be a lively, if silent, motor as the e-powertrain increases torque (to 320Nm) and power (now 150PS).

However, the time it takes to charge the new high-tech lithium-ion battery pack will be four hours longer - up to 16 hours on a home socket from zero – than the current one. Importantly, though, it takes up to eight hours with a 6KW home charger. A quick charge to 80pc on the public system can take as little as 40 minutes. It has a claimed top speed of 144 kmh.

There will be a higher-power version with larger battery capacity and longer range – and at a higher price of course – towards the end of 2018/beginning of 2019.

This new Leaf looks and feels like a larger car now even though it is only a bit longer, wider and lower and on the same platform as the current one.

And the design of the cabin gives it the typical ‘modern Nissan’ treatment. There is a clean dash and more than a sense of extra space – excellent rear room I found. Nissan claim it can carry five people in decent comfort; four adults I’d say.

And there is a large boot. Good package all round.

It also looks much more like a mainstream Nissan than the current model. Sharp, crisp lines remind me of the Qashqai and Pulsar from the side and the Micra at the back.

Apart from the electric vehicle side of things there are some important elements in the new car too:

*The e-Pedal technology is a key development. It allows you to start, accelerate, decelerate and stop just by adjusting the pressure of your foot on the accelerator. When the accelerator is fully released, both regenerative and friction brakes are applied automatically, gradually bringing the car to a stop. Nissan say the car holds its position even on steep slopes until you press the accelerator again. But, of course, you still have to use the conventional brake pedal for sudden stops.

*A ProPILOT driver assistance system, for use on single-lane driving on highways, is claimed to make driving easier in heavy traffic.

* ProPILOT Park can control steering, acceleration, braking and gear selection to automatically guide the car into a parking spot.

There is also a new interface on the smartphone app so you can monitor the car’s state of charge, find the nearest charging station and pre-heat or cool the car before driving. And there’s a new-look of the 7-inch, full-colour (TFT) display. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto feature in the infotainment system.

The current Leaf is built in Sunderland for the European markets. The batteries for the new one are also being produced in Sunderland (as well as Japan) so there is a legitimate expectation the new car will be built at the northern English factory - despite Brexit.

The LEAF first came on the market in 2010 and they have since sold 1,200 new models. Overall numbers being driven, however, have been swollen by used imports.

They expect the number of people buying a new LEAF will double to at least 500 next year depending on the market in general and particularly the level of imports.

Around 300,000 ‘old’ Leafs sold globally - making it the world’s best selling EV.

Road tax will be €120, like the current one, because of its zero emissions and the €10,000 combined VRT rebate and SEAI grants will apply.

Motorists have been slow to pick up on electric cars despite such incentives but there appears to have been a spike in July when 111 were registered. Total electric car sales to date this year are running at 531 (v 361 for the corresponding period in 2016).

Of current sales the Leaf still leads the way and accounts for 231 which is down from 327 but sizeable import volumes of used electric Nissans (242 – up from 97) help explain why. Hyundai’s electronic IONIQ is second best with 223 registrations this year.

Online Editors

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Also in Life