2015 Nissan LEAF to get 135-mile range?

Despite its richly deserved position as the ‘go to’ electric car, the Nissan LEAF is starting to lose the game of top trumps, particularly when it comes to range.

Nissan needs to remedy this in order to retain the position of electric market leader, which it has grasped so tightly since the LEAF went on sale in 2010. And it will, according to one analyst.

Writing for The Street, Anton Wahlman makes several convincing deductions to suggest that Nissan will launch a new LEAF with a 135-mile range by the end of 2014. The anticipated price is $33,000 – a $4,000 increase over the current generation.

Wahlman argues that while the lack of a telescopic steering wheel (trivial as it sounds, this is a major reason why buyers look elsewhere) and faster battery degradation than rivals have hurt sales somewhat, outright range is the outstanding problem with the current LEAF.

He’s right. The LEAF’s 84 miles autonomy is less than the BMW i3 (80-100 miles) and even the Fiat 500e (87 miles). It will get worse for the Japanese automaker later this year, too, when the Volkswagen e-Golf (118 miles) and the Kia Soul EV (124 miles) arrive.

Although the latter two vehicles’ ranges are currently based on more lenient European NEDC test cycles, the e-Golf is still anticipated to achieve closer to 90 miles range in EPA tests due to a host of efficient innovations, so clearly something must be done.

2015-Volkswagen-e-Golf-11

The enemy: Volkswagen’s e-Golf arrives later this year with a strong range

The second part of the argument, which you can read in its entirety here, focuses on the need for speed.

It is widely expected that 2016 or 2017 will be the year that 200-mile electric cars at last become affordable, so if Nissan wants a 135-mile LEAF to make an impact it needs to move fast. That means launching a car this year, or early next year at the latest, with the competitive advantage shrinking month-by-month. Put it like this: in 2016 Tesla is expected to launch the Model E for around $35,000 – which would you rather?

So it’s clear why Nissan should launch a new class-leading LEAF within the next 12 months, but why will it?

The first clue is that Nissan has recently sent out surveys asking LEAF owners if they would be prepared to pay more for an electric car with a 150-mile range. As Transport Evolved notes, the most expensive option for respondents in a multiple-choice survey was that of paying $5,000 more than the current model – that isn’t much, which suggests that Nissan has made ground in battery technology.

bmw-i3-range-extender

The BMW i3 is another rival from a premium brand

The second clue is Nissan’s absolute desire to be the undisputed leader in what it believes is the future of personal mobility.

“We will not relinquish our lead in electric vehicles. Despite the naysayers, this is the era of electrification and electronics,” said Nissan’s product chief Andy Palmer this year.

“It is inevitable, and Nissan is at its forefront. This is what powers Nissan. It is our momentum now, and it is our momentum for the future, and I pledge that Nissan will maintain its leadership in EVs.”

Palmer sounds convinced, and Nissan has demonstrated a willingness to invest huge capital in bringing electromobility to the mass market. Already more than 100,000 Nissan LEAFs have been sold worldwide, so why stop now?

Posted by Richard Lane

Richard is a London-based automotive journalist specialising in future mobility and sustainable design. Having fallen for cars because of the virtues of a particular German flat-six, it's what we'll all be driving next that now interests Richard most. Dream garage: Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior and a Detroit Electric SP:01.

  1. I have been repairing cars 30 years and what ever vw or bmw puts out in transportation, I would not take even the slightest chance of computer module communication reliability or mechanical reliability by purchasing their troubles in technology.

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  2. As batteries fail in the early models, will the new batteries be backward compatible? The 2015 battery IS backwardly compatible with previous year models. But what about the batteries in 2016, 2017, etc. ?

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  3. Jeff Songster May 7, 2014 at 6:02 PM

    Love my 2013 1.1 rev Leaf… looking forward to the next gen to maybe get another. 120 miles would be nice 150 or more even better. I’d guess that the tech has improved enough that they can get somewhat more from the same box. Maybe even a faster AC charger than the 6.6… how about 7.2 or 9.6kW. Gonna be fun to see all the coming changes as I drive the tires off my 2013.

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  4. We now know that the 2015 Leaf will not get any range increase. It’s pretty much a carry over from 2014 with a minimal amount of option level rejiggering…

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    1. I agree, I think that new 2015 model will come with minimal changes, but this changes we can expect for the 2016 Leaf

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  5. Ditto per above mileage rating (US and Eu differs quite a bit). LEAF’s actual range I achieved time and time again (leaf Acenta) is 90+ miles.

    Also, comparing Nissan Leaf to likes of i3 is somewhat incompatible. Premium brand and excessive premium pricing aside, – LEAF is a 5 seated spacious family car while i3 is a tiny city 4 seat commuter. Each to their purpose, and doubt many EV drivers owning either one would compare these models in black and white.
    Cost plays a huge part in purchase/lease decision making, especially costs vs benefits.
    Finally, Bmw i3 (UK version) does not even have the RapidCharger option. – owners are forced to go for range extender option all together or stick around for a long while at the charging point. And drivers are reporting the same driving range as nissan leaf if not less! 75 miles winter range in bmwi3 in the UK. That’s quite a bit less than nissan Leaf’s real world mileage.

    I find it amusing that no one pays attention to that last pointer. It’s not all what it seems.

    C-zero.imfo evmeerkat

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    1. Funny (that) I rarely read of our Chevy Spark EV. Strange too, how Chevy came up with it, the leasing experience was a tragi-comedy with Chevy dealer employees knowing only what they learned themselves, about electric cars. Will Chevy continue to build them?
      Six months ago it was the winner in most categories regarding price, range, and ability to Fast Charge. (Faster then level II, a DC Fast Charger uses a transformer to deliver DC current to the car, eliminating the need for the car to use it’s own transformer. Also the charge controller has twice the capacity)
      Where we live it gets to 115 F for a few weeks, which is not good for anything electric, but the Spark has a thermostatically controlled water jacket. The Leaf has a battery warmer, but doesn’t have a cooling system.
      The day after it came home I said to Laura, “Someone is already working on putting two motors in these things, one on each end, and immediately after we’ll see an electric motor on each corner, that are completely controlled by energy efficient algorithms. Some cars will have better adhesion to the road when they’re moving, than when they’re sitting still.
      Lastly, the Spark has, by some inexplicably fortuitous alignment of events, 400 ft/lb of torque. None of the others under $50k come close, and some of them are fast.
      Throttle steer, two wheel ‘chirp’, torque steer (pulls the car ten or so feet to the right under hard acceleration) and a good old burn out, or burnt rubber across the intersection, are just some of the fun things to do driving to work.

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      1. ….and I forgot to mention the Spark’s range;

        Chevy advertises it as fully charged with a range of 82 miles, but that hasn’t happened to us since the first few charges. Now I panic if it stops charging below 99 miles showing, normally 101, 102 and the highest 103 are showing, maximum range estimates are around 118 to 121.

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        1. I’m impressed with the Spark EV. If I didn’t need the space I have in the LEAF I would have gone for the Spark. I guess its not available here yet and GM leases are not as good as Nissan’s. My lease is up in 2016 and if the 3rd Gen Tesla is available at a reasonable price I’m going for that.

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  6. Good article! I have to say something about your range statements though. Youre comparing US EPA ratings to EU nedc ratings. Leaf has 84 epa and 124 nedc rating. The e-golf will likely be rated at ~82 miles epa and 118 nedc.

    Might wanna correct that.

    M

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    1. Hi Martin,

      Thanks for pointing that out. I’ve changed that passage to make it more clear.

      I can’t take any credit for this, though, as I’ve only pointed out Wahlman’s reasonably astute observations. I think he’s very close to the mark.

      Richard

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