VIDEO: Nissan’s Mysterious “Advanced R&D Electric Vehicle” is a 330+ Mile Prototype LEAF

Yesterday, we broke the news that Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn had been dropping some big hints at Nissan’s Ordinary Shareholder Meeting — held on Tuesday in Yokohama, Japan — that suggested the Japanese automaker could be releasing a longer-range LEAF electric car sooner than we previously thought.

We've finally seen the video of Nissans Ordinary Shareholder Meeting -- and its very exciting.

We’ve finally seen the video of Nissans Ordinary Shareholder Meeting — and its very exciting.

Ghosn was also joined on stage by two LEAF electric cars, one of which was fitted with autonomous driving technology and the other which we clearly thought had the tell-tale signs of a larger capacity battery pack peeking out from underneath its body. Digging through the transcript, of Mr. Ghosn’s speech, we were also able to glean some important details about Nissan’s future plans for electric car range, including the fact that Nissan will begin to demonstrate the first steps towards longer-range cars later this year, and has been working for some time on lighter, more energy-dense batteries for its vehicles.

As part of that presentation, Ghosn said that “Nissan is exploring new materials and chemistry solutions in order to make thinner, lighter weight and less costly batteries,” adding that “We foresee the day when you leave your home with a full charge, and are able to go about your day with no concerns…then return home with ample charge.”

Nissan then showed a video to the audience which Ghosn said was “how we envision a routine day” some time in the future.  Yesterday, we hadn’t seen that video, but now we have — and it brings with it some news that we’re sure will get LEAF fans around the world excited.

It showed the same car that accompanied Ghosn on stage driving around Japan with an extended-range battery pack. And when the car was first turned on, its dashboard read a total range of 544 kilometers (338 miles).

That’s more than three times the range of the current Nissan LEAF, and validates Ghosn’s statement yesterday that Nissan would “in the near future… provide EV drivers with even greater ‘peace of mind’ range, by offering comparative mobility to today’s conventional vehicles.” It also goes some way to explaining why the car we saw on stage — which some readers said simply had a Nismo body kit fitted — had what appeared to be a plus-sized battery pack dangling from its tummy.

We knew there was a big battery hiding in there somewhere...

We knew there was a big battery hiding in there somewhere…

The short 1-minute 20-second video, which you can see above, doesn’t go into any great detail about what Nissan’s prototype LEAF, but does hint at what Nissan has done to make it possible with a series of slides which say “Increasing battery capacity,” “Reducing weight,” and “Improving aerodynamics” on its quest to have “Technology that takes you farther.”

Of course, at this point it would be all-too easy to proclaim that Nissan has a long-range LEAF waiting in the wings, ready to launch. If that were the case, it would certainly catapult Nissan to the front of the race to be the longest-range electric car, besting the claimed range of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV and snapping at the heels of the Tesla Model S 85 and 70D.

But while we’re sure many LEAF owners would be delighted to welcome a threefold improvement on range for their next electric car, we suspect the prototype vehicle demonstrated in this video isn’t a car that’s ready for market just yet.

For a start, if that protrusion underneath the vehicle is indeed a larger-capacity battery pack, it would mean a significant loss of ground clearance over current LEAF models. While it’s perfectly fine and normal for a prototype test mule to have limited ground clearance in order to fit in a higher-capacity battery pack, we’d guess Nissan will need to wait until a next-generation LEAF before offering quite as large a pack commercially — or dramatically increase energy density to allow the extra kilowatt-hours to fit in the same physical space as the original LEAF pack.

Like Nissan’s autonomous driving LEAFs then, we view this long-distance LEAF prototype as being at least a year or more from production.

As we said yesterday however, we think that Tuesday’s speech by Ghosn adds significant credence to rumors that suggest Nissan will give the current LEAF a mild range boost for the 2016 model year, serving as a stop-gap measure for the automaker before the 2017, second-generation LEAF debuts late next year.

There’s one final thing we’d like to note, too. In past discussions of a longer-range, next-generation LEAF, both Nissan as a whole and Carlos Ghosn have discussed bringing a production model to market with a range that is roughly twice that of current LEAFs. This video demonstrates that Nissan has now moved well beyond that, and has the technology to produce a car that can not only rival the luxury Tesla Model S on miles per charge, but can also aggressively cross-shop against hydrogen fuel cell and internal combustion engine vehicles with equal range for everyday practicality, too.

The one thing we don’t know? Price. Just how much would a 300+ mile Nissan LEAF be? And that’s something we’re curious to know your thoughts on in the Comments below.


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  • Matt Beard

    I also notice that the video twice includes shots of signs to EV Quick Chargers – does this mean that they are really claiming 544km range with a couple of quick charges? So, about 181km range per charge? That’s less than Nissan currently claim for the LEAF range.

  • Michael Thwaite

    I think that the range shown indicates a sentiment, it says “Look, you can go far, drive all day, get back and still have a lot left.” If their intention was to develop fast charging networks, they’d showcase the car finding a share station and the driver filling up. No,, this says, big battery is where we’re going.

    It’s risky for a car company to make big promises like this – how many people are now saying “Nope, I’ll wait for the new Leaf.”? It could backfire or, could spur sales of gap-filler cars like the Sentra, much like Toyota seems to be doing. In Nissan’s case, I doubt that though.

    • vdiv

      I think a lot of people have said “wait for the new Leaf since 80 miles just doesn’t cut it”, bought a Volt or some such, or have gone the Tesla route mortgaging the house and melting the kids’ college funds 😉

      Nissan is heavily invested in this EV “mumbo-jumbo” thing and they are not going to relinquish their leadership if they can help it. In Ghosn we trust 🙂

  • CDspeed

    I misspoke, I was only identifying the body kit, I wasn’t saying that’s all it was….. thanks a lot. On the up side though this news certainly is huge. Bye bye hydrogen, with a Leaf that can trump a Model S victory goes to the electric car.

    • Michael Thwaite

      Goodbye hydrogen… yes, well spotted so, that leaves Honda and Nissan in JP who’ve said no to hydrogen leaving who, Mitsubishi, Subaru undecided?

      Just Toyota left in the JP Hydrogen group?

      …Unless… That range is hydrogen! Hah… I re-watched it “Increasing battery capacity, reducing weight, increasing aerodynamic…”

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  • Well I hope Nissan can get this long range Leaf to market quick. Unfortunately I still think this car is well, a bit ugly.

    • Michael Thwaite

      They have promised that the next version will be more consumer friendly… I think they agree with you.

  • Ad van der Meer

    I suspect the 544 km range will be according to the rediculous JC08 standard. The current Leaf is supposed to have a range of 228 km, but we all know that is a bit optimistic. 128 km can be tricky depending on the temperature or even the direction of the wind.

    When I translate this to the “new Leaf”, 128/228*544 makes 311 km, which is still very respectable, but not out of the ball park compared to the Bolt or Model III.

  • Richard Glover

    Good news or bad news first?
    Good news the range will be above 620 km when the battery is new.
    Bad news the battery degradation does not look good 1740 km clocked and already one bar down.

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