“2018 Nissan Leaf SL”
Increased Range, More Power and Better Looks.
The Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. launched what they claimed to be the world’s first affordable, zero-emission car in the form of the new 2011 Nissan Leaf – a 4-door, medium-size, lithium-ion battery powered, plug-in electric hatchback, capable of comfortably transporting five adults.
The Nissan Leaf is based on Nissan’s ”B” car platform which also supports the Versa, but is 6-inches longer. Nissan has had a 70-year long history in both electric vehicle and battery technologies beginning research and development in 1992. In 1995 the Prairie EV was launched, followed by the Altra EV and then the Hyper Mini and several test and concept electric vehicles.
The Nissan Leaf is based on a dedicated EV platform and is a 100%plug-in electric vehicle with zero emissions. There is no supplemental gasoline engine as in a Hybrid Electric vehicle, so oil changes are no longer necessary. Obvious competitors will be the Ford Focus EV, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, with the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrids figuring in the picture as well.
The 2018 second generation Nissan Leaf is all-new with a refreshing aerodynamic design form with dynamic proportions, sporting a floating roofline and signature V-Motion Grille with a striking Crystal Blue pyramid panel. Other signature design cues are the “Boomerang lamps and enhanced brand symbol. The Leaf is available in three trim levels: S; SV; and SL – the latter including leather seating surfaces. A solar panel and rear backup camera are optionally available. The SL trim level is actually priced at $590 less than the previous model and represents an increase in value of $6,783.
Leaf’s power comes from a 680 pound laminated Lithium-ion Manganese Graphite battery pack mounted low in the vehicle floor for optimum weight distribution, and a high-response synchronous AC electric drive motor (110kW / 147 horsepower and 236 pound feet of torque) delivering energy to the front wheels. Top speed for the Leaf is 90 mph and the EPA estimated range capability is 150 miles plus. The battery pack consists of 192 cells, with 8 laminate cells per module x 24 modules compared to the old 4 cells x 48 modules. Battery capacity decreases with time and use. Actual range will vary depending upon driving/charging habits, speed, conditions, weather, temperature, and battery age. The battery comes with an 8-year, 100,000-mile warranty, and the battery is expected to retain 70-80
percent of its original storage capacity after 10 years.
When the battery power is drained to a minimum point, recharging may be accomplished via a supplied 110 V portable trickle charge cable that may be plugged into any conventional household outlet. Optional 240V charging is available. There are actually three levels of recharge technology: Level I is a 110V (30kW) trickle type that fully recharges in roughly 35 hours; Level II is the normal recharge method for both home and public usage at 3.3kW (220 V) that requires approximately 7.5 hours and which may now be done by simply plugging into a standard 220V clothes dryer plug.; and the third level – DC Fast Charge is a quick type for public and private use at 50kW that will deliver an 80 percent charge in 40 minutes. Charging for Level 1 and 2 stations must be hardwired, and the standard for quick charging is still pending, and essentially cost prohibitive for home and public usage. There are currently thousands of public charging stations nationwide. The Leaf’s charging plugs are located in a small forward compartment located just below the hood. There is also a standard photovoltaic solar panel spoiler on SL models, which supports charging of the 12-volt battery for vehicle accessories.
The Nissan Leaf has no gas tank, tailpipe, nor does it have a conventional transmission r to complicate maintenance. In fact, the only real maintenance requirements are tire rotation and windshield wiper blade replacement. Okay, washing and waxing occasionally will certainly help to maintain a pristine exterior appearance.
There are three operational modes: a Normal Drive mode; an Eco mode, which increases efficiency and delivers more range by reducing power output while increasing regenerative braking; and a B-mode, which aggressively engages regenerative braking during deceleration. Directional selection is accomplished via a center stack-mounted “Palm shifter” that operates on the principle of a computer mouse or joystick, and there is an eco button located on the steering wheel.
The Nissan Leaf is ideally suited for sustainable mobility in a partnership with the Sumitomo Trading Corp, having created a business around the secondary use of Lithium-ion batteries, employing a 4R business philosophy: Reuse; Refabrication; Recycling; and Resales.
The Leaf’s dedicated EV body was designed to provide what Nissan refers to as “smart fluidity” – a fusion of sophisticated aerodynamic management and aerodynamic acoustics with the freedom provided by the EV layout. The smooth, elegant lines of the body begin with the low, compact hood, and moves through the distinctive shoulder character line and on toward the integrated large rear spoiler.
The exterior styling is distinctive and is emphasized by a sharp, upright V-shaped design featuring long, upward-slanting LED headlights with a blue internal reflective appearance. The headlights effectively split and redirect airflow away from the door mirrors, helping to reduce wind noise and drag, and also consume only about 50 percent of the electricity of conventional halogen headlights. At the rear, the slim-type aerodynamic vertical LED taillight design and angular corners blend with the aerodynamic muffler-less rear bumper and rear diffuser managing the aerodynamics of the rear end without sacrificing rear interior space. The drag coefficient measures only 0.28.
The exterior also utilizes a flat underbody (including a large front flat floor cover, motor area undercover, front undercover and rear diffuser with fins) to help manage under vehicle airflow. An innovative vortex-shedding roof-mounted antenna is but one of many design elements incorporated in reducing wind noise. Other noise reduction measures include a quiet-operation windshield wiper motor, a sound insulation windshield design and a dual-isolated motor-mounting system.
The interior includes navigation as standard fare, push button start, a digital meter cluster, a remote charge status monitor and advanced user interface for range management including connectivity through both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smart phone applications. Information screens are provided for tracking energy flow in both the Nav system and driver info display. Audio, entertainment and connectivity features have been upgraded, starting with the addition of standard NissanConnect SM with Mobile Apps with 5.0-inch color display for LEAF S models. The system includes Bluetooth® Hands-free Phone System, Streaming audio via Bluetooth®, Hands-free Text Messaging Assistant and USB connection port for iPod® interface and other compatible devices.
My test 2018 Nissan Leaf was a pre-volume production vehicle that came in the top-of-the-line SL trim. It wore a Scarlet Ember metallic exterior finish, with the interior done in Charcoal and Gray tones with Blue accent stitching. The base price was set at $36,200., while the price as tested came to $37,738 after adding for the Technology Package with electronic parking brake, High Beam Assist, Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Intelligent Lane Intervention and ProPILOT™ Assist , along with Destination and Handling charge, but before factoring in any applicable tax credits and rebates.
SUMMARY: Piloting the all-new Nissan Leaf is really not a dramatically different process from driving a conventionally powered or hybrid powered vehicle, except that it is eerily quiet. One tends to notice road and wind noise more due to the lack of an engine. Drive rationally and conservatively and watch a tree grow graphically in the information panel, or drive in a completely normal manner and simply monitor the potential range balance. The e-Pedal’s advanced one pedal operation precludes using the brake pedal except in emergency situations – simply lifting off the accelerator activates regenerative braking action which will even bring the vehicle to a complete stop.
The new ProPILOT Assist is a “hands-on” feature that performs as a steering assist for the driver with Intelligent Cruise Control and Electric Power Steering. It is not an autonomous self driving system.
Acceleration is instantaneous in a luxurious silence, and the handling delivers a nimble feel. For those who may be concerned about operating an electric vehicle in the wet, there’s really nothing to worry about as the Leaf has undergone severe durability testing, packed in ice to measure internal pressure by rapid cooling and fully submersed as well as exposed to high pressure washing. It has proven to be completely watertight. In addition, the battery pack has escaped damage in a 40 mph frontal offset crash test.
I found the Nissan Leaf to be fun, enjoyable, reliable and most of all, efficient in both normal and Eco modes. The new Leaf now delivers a 37% increase in horsepower along with a 26% in torque for enhanced performance, and it has gone from a 30 kW to a 40 kW battery using the same footprint, for a 33% increase in energy density.
Bottom line, given all of its advantages, the Leaf makes good sense for purchase or lease for consumers with an average commute (60 miles or less each way – more if mid-point charging is available). How can you go wrong with a longer range at a lower price point with stronger performance, a more attractive styling and enhanced technologies?
SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Nissan Leaf SL
Base Price: $36,200.
Price as Tested: $37,738. – before federal tax credit, and other possible credits.
Motor Type and Size: High Response 110-kW AC synchronous electric motor (EM57), powered by a 4th Gen laminated lithium-ion battery in a 192 cell module pack – 24 kWh / 30 kWh with 6.6 kW onboard charger (6.0 kW output) and portable trickle charge cable (110V EVSE)
Horsepower (SAE): 147 @ 3,282-9,795 rpm
Torque: 236 @ 0-3,283 rpm
Transmission: Single speed reducer with shift-by-wire drive selector. Three modes – Normal; Eco-mode; and B-mode. Also Hill Start Assist and e-Pedal with advanced 1-pedal operation).
Drive Train: Transversely mounted front motor / Front-wheel drive.
Suspension: Front – Independent MacPherson strut w/ coil springs and stabilizer bar.
Rear – Torsion beam with integrated stabilizer bar.
Brakes: Power-assisted Cooperative regenerative four wheel vented discs with electrically driven Intelligent Brake, 4-Wheel ABS, BA, EBD, AEB, and electronic center console, electronic toggle switch activation. Also VDC, TCS and TPMS.
Tires: Michelin Energy Saver 215/50 R17 mounted on 5-spoke sculpted machine-finished aluminum with painted recess alloy wheels.
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length Overall: 176.4 inches
Width: 70.5 inches
Height: 61.4 inches
Curb Weight: 3,508 lbs.
Turning Circle: 36.1 ft.
Fuel Capacity: All electric – no fuel
EPA Range Estimates: 124 MPGe city / 101 MPGe highway / 112 MPGe Combined. Range = 150 miles
Drag Coefficient: 0.28
0 – 60 mph: Not tested
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles and unusual wheeled vehicles as well.