Next-Gen Nissan LEAF Needs Range of More Than 180 Miles, Says Palmer

Nissan needs to make the next-generation 2017  LEAF electric car have a range of at least 186 miles (300 km) in order to compete directly with first-generation hydrogen fuel cell cars due to come onto the market about the same time.

That’s the opinion of Nissan executive Andy Palmer, who talked candidly with Automotive News at last month’s Bejing Auto Show about the Japanese automaker’s future electric car plans.

While Palmer, Nissan’s Chief Planning Officer, was careful to avoid giving specifics, his interview gives the clearest indication yet that Nissan is preparing itself to launch a longer-range Nissan LEAF when it refreshes the model in a few years’ time.

More and more hints about a longer ranged LEAF keep appearing.

More and more hints about a longer ranged LEAF keep appearing.

When the LEAF first came to market in December 2010, it was the first all-electric mass-produced car to be made available globally. While the design today is very similar to that of the original 2011 model, the only real tweaks the car has had since launch come in the form of a more efficient drivetrain and power electronics system. This occured in 2013 when global production shifted from Japan to two additional facilities in the UK and the U.S., but since its launch, the LEAF has remained generally unchanged.

In the world of fast-moving developments in battery technology and electric drivetrains, that’s left Nissan with a problem: it’s LEAF is starting to look dated against more efficient cars like the BMW i3, and its range is being let down by cars like the Tesla Model S.

The solution, says Palmer, is a new battery technology which Nissan engineers are working hard on. Due to launch around 2017 — which we assume would coincide with the next-generation LEAF and perhaps the launch of an all-electric Infiniti model — the battery technology will be far more energy dense than current battery technology used by Nissan.

The higher the energy density, the more energy can be stored per unit mass. The more energy can be stored for a given weight or volume, the further a car can travel per charge.

Nissan believe it is battery technology that holds the key to the future of electric cars.

Nissan believe it is battery technology that holds the key to the future of electric cars.

“The battery chemistry is all about range and energy density. That’s where you see the technology moving very, very fast,” Palmer told Automotive News. “This really is the game-changing technology.”

This new battery technology, talked about by Palmer and other Nissan executives quite openly in the past, promises not only improved range per charge, but reduced cost and better longevity. It also hints at a future where cars can be built where the battery pack does not take up so much space.

Talking of design, Palmer’s colleague Mamoru Aoki — Nissan’s global design boss — hinted that the next-generation LEAF could be more conventional-looking than the current model. The current generation, he said, is just too geeky — too obviously an electric car.

“The current Leaf is aiming too much at an EV-like appearance,” Aoki said. “Tesla doesn’t look EV at all. The Tesla S just looks nice, very sporty, sleek, but very authentic.”

While Palmer nor Aoki would comment on specifics, the message from Nissan is fairly clear: the next generation LEAF will be more mainstream, more appealing to mass-market buyers — and have a better range.

The question is this: when will it appear, and just what will its specifications be?

Leave your predictions in the Comments below.


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  • Given the current generation Leaf was advertised at 160-200 km; discussion of 300 km is a 1.5-2x increase in range and battery capacity. This would imply a real-world range expectation of ~150 miles (~240 km) which would require 40-48 kWh of battery capacity. IMO a very desirable balance between an economical vehicle price and having a practical range for many owners.nnAs a comparison of size and volume, a 40-48 kWh would be half the size, volume, and cost of a 85 kWh Tesla Model S pack. The hurtle for Nissan, like Tesla is reducing pack costs 25-30% over the next few years. nnOne way to reduce costs is large-scale production volumes, so Nissan besides researching battery technology, is likely looking at design styles that will sell in volume of 100,000’s per year.nnFYI: The current generation Leaf concept made its first public appearance on Aug 3, 2009 u2026 not quite five years ago.

    • Rob Andrews

      5 years is an eternity for cell phones, for cars, it almost seems like we are standing still. We are still seeing first generation designs of most cars.

  • just someone old

    i would want an electric Nissan IDxnpleassssssssssss

  • Richard Glover

    Leave the Leaf alone. Yes increase the range but not the weight. Go back to the simple gen.1 package (great car here, what colour would you like?) Just evolve the benchmark ev. Then add another different ev to sit alongside the Leaf in Nissan showrooms. And I don’t mean adding a van! nPlease Mr. Palmer expand the Nissan range. Let us have an Eqashqai, an Ejuke or Emicra. You could right now give us a re-badged Zoe.nBut most of all realise that when people talk about range anxiety, what they are really anxious about is the price of the vehicle. Presently purchasing a Leaf only makes sense if you are a short trip, high mileage driver. Like me 17,000 miles per years and I just love my lovely blue Leaf.

    • Rob Andrews

      Sorry, Aoki is right, a better looking car and longer range could greatly increase the number of customers who are interested in electric cars. (I decided not to buy a Leaf for exactly those reasons). Over 5-10 years ten times as many customers could be interested if they did not feel like they had to drive an ugly duckling of a car and fill up every sixty miles in winter (my commute is 60 miles round trip).

      Even the eGolf is not quite there for me. While eGolf is not ugly, its range is still limited. I would like to be able to make it at least 3 days between charges.

      Much of my family lives more than 100 miles away so 200 mile trips are common enough. Being able to know that all my usual trips can be done without being dependent on third party charges would give me the confidence to buy.

      I am even fortunate to have charging at my work. The reality is the charging plugs there are already in demand and hot swapping happens a few times a day.

      My heart wants the new Leaf ASAP. My prediction is late 2017 and may even be a 2018 model. Everybody wants to see what Tesla is going to do with the III. Nissan, BMW and VW all have a lot to loose if Tesla pulls off a cool looking car with 200 miles of range for $35k. Only solution is to hope you can match the battery range and tweak the car looks to be as stylish as the III. Leaf is not even close today. eGolf is only normal, i3 is ugly.

      • Richard Glover

        Over the years there have been cars that have looked great, sold well, but turned out to be lemons.

        Then there have been cars that sales wise have started slowly but have become firm favourites.

        We all know the expression, “familiarity breeds contempt” but familiarity plays an important part in car design evolution.

        You don’t copy lemons but you do copy favourites.

        When I first saw it in the showroom in 2011, I didn’t care much for the styling of the Leaf. I was struck by how ordinary looking such a revolutionary car Nissan were offering us. To me it was as if the design brief was to produce a family car based on the idea that pure electric vehicles were already a well-established site on our roads.

        I am well into my forth year of ownership, 58k miles covered, so my lovely blue Leaf is very familiar to me and I love it because it has proved to be a delight to drive and own.

        There are issues I have with Nissan’s list price and their marketing silliness but the car is a great car.

        It deserves to achieve cult status.