First generation LEAF was sold in Malaysia during the period when the government exempted EVs from all duties
First generation LEAF was sold in Malaysia during the period when the government exempted EVs from all duties

While Toyota and Honda focussed on hybrid technology from the late 1990s and have leadership in the field, Nissan chose to champion electric vehicles (EVs) and likewise, has gained leadership in the field, particularly in mass produced EVs for sale in many countries.

With so much publicity about the LEAF over the years, it’s hard to believe that it’s been only 7 years since the model was launched. Yet, in just 7 years, Nissan has advanced EV technology in huge steps to make the new generation what it describes as ‘the ultimate electric vehicle’.

Nissan believes that the all-new LEAF that is making its debut this week sets a new standard in the growing market for mainstream electric vehicles by offering customers greater range and advanced technologies. It also has ProPILOT Assist (driver assistance technology) and e-Pedal for increased safety, comfort and convenience.

ProPILOT Assist is a single-lane driving assistance technology. Once activated, it can automatically control the distance to the vehicle in front, using a speed preset by the driver (between 30 km/h and 100 km/h). It can also help the driver steer and keep the vehicle within its lane. If the car in front stops, the ProPILOT Assist system will automatically apply the brakes to bring the care to a full stop if necessary. After coming to a full stop, the car can remain in place even if the driver’s foot is off the brake. The system will help reduce stress when driving on the highway in both heavy and flowing traffic.

The e-Pedal, which is offered as standard equipment, allows the driver the simplicity of accelerating, decelerating and stopping the car by using the accelerator pedal alone — a revolutionary innovation that can change the way people drive. By simply releasing the accelerator, the LEAF will come to a smooth and complete stop without the need to press the brake pedal. With a deceleration rate of up to 0.2g, the e-Pedal eliminates the need for drivers to constantly move their foot from the accelerator to the brake pedal to slow down or stop. This helps reduce fatigue and increase enjoyment.

2018 Nissan LEAF

The car also embodies Nissan Intelligent Mobility, the company’s approach to changing the way cars are driven, powered and integrated into society. The three key aspects of Nissan Intelligent Mobility exemplified by the new Nissan LEAF are Nissan Intelligent Driving, Nissan Intelligent Power and Nissan Intelligent Integration.

The focal point in the new LEAF is, of course, the e-powertrain which offers improved energy efficiency and increased torque and power output. The new electric powertrain now has a power output of 110 kW (about 147.5 bhp), 38% more than the output in the previous LEAF. Torque has been increased 26% to 320 Nm, resulting in improved acceleration although, being an EV, acceleration is usually quite brisk. Nissan will also offer a higher power, longer range version in another year but it will cost more.

A key issue for consumers has been the range of EVs and as battery technology has advanced, it has been possible to store more energy so that a fully charged battery pack can take the car further. Even with the additional power output, the new LEAF’s driving range has been increased to an estimated 400 kms. That should be enough for more than a day’s motoring and give owners confidence to venture further.

The car’s new lithium-ion battery pack has more energy-storage capacity without increased size. The casing has exactly the same dimensions as that of the previous-generation LEAF. The individual cell structure of the laminated lithium-ion battery cells has been improved, enabling a 67% increase in energy density versus the original 2010 LEAF model.

Another key engineering improvement for the lithium-ion battery pack is the use of enhanced electrode materials with revised chemistry, resulting in higher power density while contributing to greater battery durability upon charge and discharge.

A newly designed interface on the LEAF smartphone app allows users to monitor the vehicle’s state of charge, schedule charging to benefit from optimal energy tariffs, find the nearest charging station, or cool the car before getting in.

The angle of the charging port at the front has been reconfigured for greater convenience, letting the customer connect the charging cable without bending down. Ergonomic testing by Nissan shows that this new 45-degree angle allows drivers of all heights to easily and comfortably connect the charger.

To match the improved output of the e-powertrain, Nissan engineers enhanced the car’s stability. Heavy components, including the battery, are placed in the centre of the body, helping achieve smaller yaw moments of inertia compared with front-engine vehicles and thereby improving directional stability, enabling smoother cornering.

The new LEAF’s electric power steering system has a more linear feel that enhances confidence, especially on highways, with enhanced feedback from the road surface. A software upgrade with new control logic working in conjunction with the steering angle sensor, and a 10% increase in steering torsion bar stiffness. Additionally, the urethane bump stop for the rear suspension has been replaced by a rubber stop to reduce shocks and bumpiness when driving on uneven roads.

The new LEAF also comes with Intelligent Ride Control for more precise electric motor torque control generation when cornering, reducing vibration while simultaneously improving ride quality and steering control.

IDS concept provided designers inspiration for new LEAF styling
IDS concept provided designers inspiration for new LEAF styling

The design of the new LEAF is inspired by the IDS Concept car, first shown at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show. The signature V-Motion grille, the boomerang light signature and the floating roof emphasize the presence of Nissan brand design, emphasising the LEAF’s membership in the Nissan family.

A clear-blue 3D mesh pattern with a “freezing” motif, on a flush surface inside the V-Motion grille, expresses the LEAF’s uniqueness as an EV. The new LEAF’s projector-beam headlights with dual, direct-lens low and high beams are a first for Nissan. The rear combination lamps feature a unique signature that’s easily recognizable from a distance. A spoiler integrated in the window graphics gives the new LEAF an impressive, sporty look.

The underfloor and a diffuser-type rear bumper combine to reduce drag and prevent lift, resulting in improved vehicle stability. With the more aerodynamic body styling and other details promote smoother airflow, the new LEAF’s Cd is now 0.28.

The new LEAF’s cabin features roominess and openness with the brand’s ‘Gliding Wing’ design language used as a framework. The redesigned driver information display has a simple, light configuration without excessive decoration. It focuses on visibility, creating a tasteful, understated look and feel with generous spaciousness and functionality.

Monitors and switches have also been redesigned for smart, stress-free operation. Most notable is the combination of an analogue speedometer and a multi-information display. On the left side, the 7-inch, full-colour, thin-film transistor display shows a power gauge meter by default.

The cabin’s interior dimensions remain essentially unchanged and comfortably accommodate 5 people. The rear cargo area has been redesigned to provide increased luggage space and the square space, with bumps removed as much as possible, allows greater space utilization.

The new LEAF goes on sale in Japan from the beginning of October, followed by North America and Europe from early 2018. It will be sold in more than 60 markets worldwide and Edaran Tan Chong Motor has confirmed that they will also offer the model next year. The company spent a great deal of its own money on a pilot program to promote zero emission vehicles some years back and also sold the first-generation LEAF when the government allowed EVs and hybrids to be sold duty-free.

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[Chips Yap]

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