Although Nissan’s next-generation LEAF electric hatchback isn’t due to make its market debut until some time in 2016 or 2017 — most likely as a 2018 model-year car — we’ve heard some pretty consistent rumors for the past few months that suggest Nissan is planning on offering a mildly refreshed LEAF for the 2016 model year with an optional larger battery pack to increase easily-achievable real-world range over the 100-mile per charge mark for the first time in the car’s history.
While those rumors have been fairly specific about the size and even potential range of the larger battery pack option for the 2016 LEAF, hinting at 30 kilowatt-hours of capacity and around 110-120 miles of real-world range, Nissan has remained frustratingly quiet on the issue.
One of Nissan’s LEAF dealers, it seems, is less eager to keep the lid on things.
As our friends at GreenCarReports detail, Andy Mohr Nissan of Indiana seems to have thrown caution to the wind and published a page on its website devoted to the new 2016 Nissan LEAF. Designed to drum up interest at the dealer forecourt, it proudly calls the 2016 model year LEAF the “end of the first-generation LEAF” with “significant updates” from the outgoing 2015 model year car.
While it doesn’t detail what all of those updates are, the Indiana dealer is clear on one thing: Nissan is offering two battery choices for 2016 LEAF buyers.
Referring to what it calls the ‘standard’ LEAF, the dealership quotes an EPA-approved range of 84 miles per charge from the standard 24 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. Those figures are the same as quoted for all trim levels for the outgoing 2015 model year LEAF. Although specific trim levels are not mentioned on the dealers’ page, we’d guess that these figures refer to the entry-level 2016 Nissan LEAF S, which ties in nicely with other rumors we’ve heard quoting the same performance figure for the more affordable model.
“Drivers of higher trim levels will enjoy a battery with as much as 25% increased capacity, delivering a driving range of as much as 110 miles,” the site details, although like its referral to the ‘standard’ LEAF there’s no mention of specific vehicle trim. Given Nissan currently only offers three trim levels — S, SV and SL — we’d infer that the dealer is implying both Nissan SV and Nissan SL trim levels could gain from the longer-range pack.
A little back-of-the-napkin math tells us that this claimed range of up to 110 miles per charge is at least plausible for a LEAF fitted with a 30 kilowatt-hour rather than 24 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, assuming the new pack is constructed with a battery cell which is more energy dense than its predecessor but similar in weight.
While that kind of evolution in pack design might seem like a major breakthrough, Nissan, like Tesla and other electric automakers, is almost continually refining the cell chemistry and design of its electric car battery packs.
Indeed, since the LEAF launched in late 2010, we know of at least three different iterations of battery chemistries which have found their way into LEAF battery packs and many more iterations have been tested by Nissan in and out of the laboratory. To date those incremental improvements have focused on giving the LEAF’s battery a longer life, better cope with extreme heat and improve charging characteristics, but having visited Nissan’s UK lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant earlier this year we can verify energy density has also been on Nissan’s list of priorities.
With the next-generation LEAF not expected for at least another year, the likelihood that Nissan is preparing a 30 kilowatt-hour, 100+ mile LEAF battery pack for higher-end models seems more certain than ever before. But while we like many others would like to see this rumor proven true, until Nissan makes the official announcement, noting is certain.
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