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2017 Nissan LEAF Will Be More Conventional, Less Nerdy, Says Nissan Designer

Here at Transport Evolved, we’ve got to admit that we’re kind of fond of the Nissan LEAF’s unusual design and almost anthropomorphic front, complete with big eyes, squat nose and open mouth. As we say here in the UK, the Nissan LEAF is something of a Marmite car. You either love it, or you hate it.

While we don't know what the next-generation LEAF will look like, Nissan says it will be less geeky.

While we don’t know what the next-generation LEAF will look like, Nissan says it will be less geeky.

But while some 140,000 customers around the world obviously like the current, slightly nerdy look to the Nissan LEAF, the next-generation car — due in 2016 as a 2017 model year vehicle — will be designed to cater to more conventional tastes.

That’s according to Nissan design chief and senior vice president Shiro Nakamura, who told GreenCarReports last week at the Paris Motor Show that the second-generation Nissan LEAF will be given a more conventional design, one that appeals to a broader audience.

It’s a well-trodden path familiar to anyone who has followed the progress of alternative and future-fuelled vehicles through the marketplace: start bold and daring, then move towards mainstream conventionality.

Take Honda’s first ever hybrid car — the original 2000-2006 two-seat Insight — for example.  With a lightweight aluminium body, sweeping, aerodynamic lines and narrow, half-covered rear wheels, the Insight stood out on the road as a futuristic, trend-setting car. Its predecessor, the 2009-2014 Insight, was an uninspiring, fairly conventional five-seat family hatchback.

Another example comes from Toyota’s famous Prius family. The first Prius (1997-2003) was a small, efficient, slightly geeky four-door sedan. The second-generation (2004-2009) Prius was a gadget-focused, efficiency-focused hatchback that screamed “I’m an environmentalist” and had a futuristic, minimalist interior. The third generation (2010-current) Prius meanwhile, dialled this down in an attempt to appeal to more mainstream car buyers with a more conventional, dowdy interior and less assuming exterior.

Earlier this year, Auto Express published what it said the 2017 LEAF would look like -- but it's just a commissioned rendering. (Image © Auto Express, used with permission)

Earlier this year, Auto Express published what it said the 2017 LEAF would look like — but it’s just a commissioned rendering. (Image © Auto Express, used with permission)

“Now we are aiming for a bigger number of customers, and they are not looking for as much ‘EVness,'” Nakamura said of the second-generation LEAF design. “Some people say [of the current LEAF], oh , this is too unique…we are covering a much broader range of people now.”

In many ways, the current generation LEAF is reminiscent of the 2004-2009 Toyota Prius: a functional, yet minimalist interior that emphasises the car’s futuristic technology and environmental prowess. Designed primarily as a city car rather than a long-distance car, the current generation LEAF isn’t exactly big on creature comforts. With a larger, longer-range battery pack planned, the 2017 Nissan LEAF will need to play more to longer-distance use scenarios.

“But now, we’ll be expanding the range; so that means it has to be more of a long-distance car,” Nakamura explained. While he didn’t give specifics, that implies the next-generation car will include more driver adjustment and perhaps more comfortable seating for longer-distance trips.

Hinting that the redesign would mean more gadgets and toys for passengers, plus a wider range of interior appointments, Nakamura painted the next-generation LEAF as a more grown-up car, one which would allow its customers to choose to spec high-end tech features.

“But the base model will stay a base,” he confirmed, “because some people are simply looking for basic transportation — nothing else — and some people want to have an EV simply as a unique, innovative car.”

You either love it or you loathe. We love it, but do you?

You either love it or you loathe. We love it, but do you?

If you’re one of the many LEAF fans who likes their current-generation LEAF with a large dose of gadgetry on board, that last statement should offer some solace: while Nissan intends to make the LEAF outwardly more conventional in its design, there’s going to be room for those who want to shout from the rooftops that they’ve got an all-electric, zero-emission car capable of things that most cars can’t do.

In other words, the next-generation LEAF will expand on the hard work done by the first generation LEAF, bringing a range of trim levels and options to cater to everyone’s tastes.

As for battery packs? There’s no word on range yet, but Nakamura was happy to say that the 2017 Nissan LEAF will offer a higher-range battery pack above that of the current generation LEAF — and that Nissan was still examining the possibility of offering the 2017 LEAF with a choice of battery pack sizes to cater to different tastes and budgets.

Sadly, there are no official images of the 2017 Nissan LEAF yet, but we’re curious: what would you change about the current Nissan LEAF? What would you like to stay the same? And do you think Nissan is right: do car buyers want something a little more ‘normal’ with a plug on it?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • What Nakamura calls “EVness” I call “ECOness”. ECOness can be seen in the pod-like design style, bug-like headlights, recycled bleached seat coverings to growing trees. The LEAFs ECOness give the impression to many it is a hybrid like the Prius.nnThe true “EVness” is in the lack of interior clutter, the quick and smooth driving experience. It’s more of what has been removed from the vehicles design: excess knobs, mechanical noise, vibration and annoying interfaces. “EVness” is more about clean design and customizable configurations. This means modern highcontrast displays, LED lighting, clean crisp design forms, more options for interior fabrics and accents. nnExperience is first with “EVness”, from instant torque to the refined control that comes with regenerative breaking. Less need for using the brake and better driver control via the accelerator. Anything that improve a drivers experience and stays out of the way until needed reenforces the electric driving experience that defines “EVness”. nnLooking forward to more “EVness” that is defined by an electric driven design and less “ECOness” associated with a hybrid technology bridge and branding gap.

  • leptoquark

    ” thereu2019s going to be room for those who want to shout from the rooftops nthat theyu2019ve got an all-electric, zero-emission car capable of things nthat most cars canu2019t do.”nnI’ve found the most effective way to do that in my current 2014 Leaf, and on my previous 2012 Leaf, was to add “ELECTRIC” in silver letters to the rear hatch. They’re a bit smaller than the factory “LEAF”, so they’re tasteful. Even with the Leaf’s distinctive body styling, I just wasn’t getting the recognition I needed 🙂 Now, almost every driver behind me leans forward to examine the back of my Leaf, and usually points it out to their passenger as well.

  • Georjajim

    I have to say the design of the current LEAF was what sent me to FORD FOCUS EVu2026the look. Then I fell in love with the FOCUS. Different tastes for different folks. I was pulled by a STATE TROOPER for traveling in the HOV lane (one passenger). When I pointed out that it was an electric car (AFV), he told me it didn’t look like an electric car. Touche.

    • anderlan

      As a former Scion xB owner, I could care less about looks. If it functions, I like it. The xB had functional cargo space. The LEAF has functional enough aero. It could be shorter and save on aero that way, but I do appreciate the height sometimes for visibility.

  • anderlan

    Range options, range options, range options. They can do the engineering work to make the same motor and controller use slightly different voltages (i.e. power and energy i.e. battery pack size) with a simple controller software configuration, and then just charge the marginal price for the extra already extremely modular battery modules. The marginal cost of the modules is very very low. But an OEM probably very much wants to sell more cars per megawatt-hour of battery supply, just like PC makers like to ship more PCs given an amount of RAM supply. nnnPCs get shipped with the bare minimum of RAM and upgrades cost customers dearly unless they are cunning about finding deals. So I expect that when cars are designed to take multiple pack size options makers will do what they can to ship cars with the minimum level of range. This is bad for customer experience and long term marketing, so I hope they won’t make that mistake, and instead charge just the marginal cost of the extra modules.

  • Richard Glover

    I really like my lovely blue Leaf from all angles. However on the rare occasion when I find myself following another Leaf I find the back view disappointing. This is ironic when you consider that Renault (Nissan’s partner) cars are noted for their rear ends.nnBut the main thing I want to say to the design team is donu2019t ignore the important aspects of familiarity and continuity in design. Owners have learnt to love their cars for how they perform and that transfers to affection for the current design. That wholeness is what makes a car iconic

    • I follow several Leafs from my town, over a sharp mountain range, and into the urban sprawl. Alas, when they’re just minutes from their destination, I have to take the freeway to another city core, so their range wouldn’t have done it.nnnBut I love the back view ^-^

  • filsmyth

    The ONE thing that bugs me about the current Leaf’s exterior design is the charge port door, and though that’s mainly because I personally feel the charge port is at the wrong end, I also can’t help but think the panel gap around it must cause a slight disruption of airflow. Perhaps very slight indeed, but then there is the large Nissan badge sticking out in the middle of it, which ought to be made flush to the surface.nnHeadlights? The shape in this area of the nose is designed to deflect air away from the A-pillars, reducing wind noise. I love the Leaf _despite_ its headlights, but with the Juke (built on the same assembly line, at least in Smyrna) I feel Nissan has gone too funky — plus I dislike things pretending to be something they’re not. Keep the shape but maybe make the headlights smaller, and please don’t try to fool anyone with turn signals masquerading as headlights (as on the Juke).nnnnProminent in the Auto Express rendering is a large, open grille, which is completely unnecessary and would be an huge mistake. Again, honesty is best, and by employing only _functional_ vent openings, any given EV will immediately stand apart from ICE wagons…nnnIf I were in charge of designing the next Leaf, I’d keep its character intact while improving aerodynamics and, if possible, making it even more lovely to look at. Then, in anticipation of protestation from Nissan execs who asked for something more conservative, I’d design another model — a ‘Branch’, let’s say, to connect the Leaf to something with a Trunk.nnnB-)

  • smartacus

    More conventional, less nerdy? Like an SUV with a chrome grille?

  • jstack6

    There have to be versions for EVeryone. I love the NERD look and Blue of the LEAF, others don’t.nMy 2013 Focus EV looks like a gas car but is 100% electric. no ones even knows or asks any questions like we get when we drive our LEAF or a Tesla Roadster. nnThere has to be cars, vans, trucks NERDY and otherwise but Tesla beats them all in looks and still saying 100% Electric with one of a kind looks. Although I have notice the Tesla S looks a little like a gas hog Jaguar .XK

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