Nissan: We’re Debating Larger Battery Packs for LEAF Electric Car

Do customers want a longer-range Nissan LEAF? And how much would they pay for it?

These are two very important questions Nissan is trying to answer as it continues planning for its next-generation LEAF electric car, Nissan’s product Chief Andy Palmer has admitted.

Nissan's Andy Palmer says Nissan is having some 'intense internal debate' about extending the LEAF's range.

Nissan’s Andy Palmer says Nissan is having some ‘intense internal debate’ about extending the LEAF’s range.

Talking with Green Car Reports last week at the New York International Auto Show, Palmer spoke of an ‘internal debate’ in the company revolving around battery options for the next-generation LEAF. While careful not to set anything in stone or preempt any official statements on the matter, Palmer’s public comments on the matter give us what we think is the strongest evidence that we’ll see an increased-range option on the next-generation LEAF.

“Intense internal debate”

As GreenCarReport notes, it’s unusual for automotive executives to be so forthright about future drivetrains and fuel choices unless it’s already been decided on internally.

Yet Palmer describes the idea of a longer-range LEAF as being the subject of “intense internal debate” at the automaker.

Some people, he says, feel that the LEAF’s current range — 84 miles on the EPA test cycle, 120 miles on the overly-optimistic NEDC cycle — is more than enough for most people’s needs. But others believe that doubling — or even tripling battery packs together to expand range into three figures could have a major impact on the car’s market share.

Six-year cycle

In keeping with other auto industry practice, Palmer confirmed that the LEAF, like every other car it makes, will be kept on a standard five or six-year development cycle. This means any major revisions — which we’d assume would also include any changes to battery pack design or capacity — would occur five or six years after the car initially debuted.

Increasing range options for the LEAF could also help sell more examples in more remote areas.

Increasing range options for the LEAF could also help sell more cars to remote areas.

In the case of the LEAF however, there are more than a few complications at Nissan. First of all, Nissan’s original LEAF debuted in 2010 as a 2011 model year car. For the first two years of its production, all LEAFs were made in Japan at Nissan’s Oppama facility, but for the 2013 model year onwards, Nissan split production to three different factories around the world.

At the same time, it gave the LEAF updates to its motor and power inverter system, battery pack, and on-board charger, not to mention a drop in weight. These advancements improved energy efficiency, weight and manufacturing cost compared to the original cars, but they were also the kind of updates usually reserved for mid-cycle or even next-generation updates.

As a consequence, Palmer admitted, there’s some question as to when the next-generation LEAF will launch, although he did confirm it won’t be this year. As we’ve previously discussed, we’re still hopeful of seeing a freshly-designed LEAF some time in 2015 as a 2016 model year.

Hardly surprising

For those who have followed rumours of longer-range LEAFs, this latest news is hardly surprising.

Earlier this year, Nissan sent out a questionnaire to many of its existing LEAF customers, asking them how much they’d pay for a hypothetical 150-mile range LEAF. Last year, Nissan even let what appeared to be a sunkworks team from its Barcelona Technical Centre enter a double-battery Nissan LEAF into the 2013 EcoRaces.

Combined, these pieces of data suggest that we should now be looking to ask when — not if — a longer-range LEAF battery pack will be offered as an option for all new LEAFs. Moreover, we’re curious to know what other technological improvements would need to be made in order to make a longer-range battery pack viable.

Extended battery pack LEAF racing at 2013 EcoRaces (Photo ©Rafael Llandres,

Extended battery pack LEAF racing at 2013 EcoRaces (Photo ©Rafael Llandres,

For a start, charging would need to be revisited, with 7 kilowatt on-board charging the absolute practical minimum for overnight charging . Meanwhile, CHAdeMO quick charging would either take longer to accomplish, or Nissan would have to develop a next-generation set of quick chargers capable of pushing more than 62.5 kilowatts — the maximum currently defined in the CHADeMo standard — to charge a LEAF’s battery pack instead of just the 40-50 kW currently used.

A (short) waiting game?

For now, it looks like those who want a new Nissan LEAF will be faced with a tough choice: buy a new car today with an 84 mile range, or consider waiting a little while longer to see what Nissan produces for the next-generation car.

At the time of writing, we’d lean towards the latter. Given that Nissan is facing increasing pressure from rival automakers to increase the range of the LEAF, we’re happy to describe an increased battery pack as a logical, inevitable choice to help reduce the gap between high-cost, high-range cars like the Tesla Model S and more affordable models like the LEAF. It’s also something we expect happening sooner, rather than later in order to retain Nissan’s market share.

We just hope however, that whatever Nissan does, it continues to offer an entry level model which matches the current entry-level car in terms of price. While battery packs are dropping in price on an almost daily basis for the electric auto industry, doubling or even tripling the LEAF’s on-board battery capability will certainly increase its sticker price.

It’s important for Nissan — and for the adoption of electric cars in general — that price isn’t sacrificed to range across its entire EV family.


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  • It’s an every present problem for the likes of us into our tech and gadgets – at what point do you buy? There are always rumours (or more) of something better, stronger, faster on the horizon and it’s all too easy on that basis to never commit to buying anything.nnThat being said, I’m in the market for a new Leaf at the moment but am intending to hold off until late July in the hope of picking up an end of quarter deal. I rather doubt we’ll see any significant change to the Leaf this year but if it looks like we might then I may hold off until nearer September…

    • bmayural

      hold off. if nissan doesn’t extend range then better I buy the 2017 tesla $40K model with 150+ range.

      • That’s 2-3 years away (probably more like 3+ given the inevitable waiting list and product delays). A little too long to wait, I’m in the market for an EV this year sometime, i.e. 2014.nnI’ve always assumed that, over the probably 4 year PCP term for my first EV, things will move on quite a bit. At the very least the proper Leaf 2.0 will be released and who knows what else.nnIt’ll be interesting to see what a $40K Tesla goes for in the UK, probably u00a340K (rip off Britain!) as compared to nearer u00a325K for a current top of the range Leaf. Can I live with a range of 80 miles? Yes, without doubt, especially with the free borrow an ICE scheme Nissan is going. Can I justify spending u00a340K on a car – not really, no.

  • Richard Glover

    Having done 40+k miles in my lovely blue Leaf and being comfortable with it’s range (of course would like more), but I do not wish to throw around more weight.nI want Nissan to maintain or reduce weight and still give us more range in the Leaf and like to think that there is already a new ev model on the drawing board to sit along side an ever improving Leaf in Nissan showrooms.nJust got to come up with the right catchy name. The Nissan Nikki

  • Surya

    It’s quite obvious that they should offer customers the OPTION to buy bigger packs. But I also agree with Richard that they should work at keeping the weight down.

    • vdiv

      I do not understand that. People do not buy the Model S because of its weight, they buy it because it can go 300 miles and recharge in an hour.nnPeople around here that do get a LEAF rarely take it out of their home zone and instead take a gas burner for longer trips.nnIf Nissan wants to sell more LEAFs they need longer range. Why is there such an “intense debate” about that?

      • Surya

        The reason I say that is because more weight means lower efficiency. Compared to regular cars, the Model S is very, very efficient. Compared to other EVs, it’s one of the least efficient cars. I’m not saying that Tesla is doing a bad job, but I don’t think you want to drive a 3 ton Leaf. It will not have the same performance as the Model S.nnHaving low weight is something all manufactures should strive towards.

      • Dennis Pascual

        I agree with Surya in the statement below. The Model S (and the Roadster, which is lighter) are fairly inefficient EVs. The vampire drain and weight really make it an electric hog.nnnI barely get 310 wh/mile in the Model S vs. closer to 250 wh/mile in the Active E (which is/was a very heavy car at close to 4,000 lbs).nnnAgreeing with Vdiv, I bought the S because I don’t compromise on both the size of the pack AND the recharge rate. I’m still considering an i3 because it’s a lot more efficient to drive on a daily basis. However, leaving either the S or Roadster parked will still cause the car to suck electricity.

  • just someone old

    if nissan reintroduced the hump behind the rearseats, but now put extra batteries in it, it would be a solutionnmaybe with a plug connecting it to the underfloorbattery, so in the factory they can add or leave it!