Before we headed to the European-market launch of the Nissan LEAF we asked you, the Transport Evolved readers, what it is you wanted to know about the upcoming longer-range 2016 LEAF and its kin, the all-electric e-NV200 minivan.
So we put your questions to Nissan — and here are its answers.
Bear in mind that what follows relates to the European-market LEAFs specifically, which does have some important differences in specification to other markets — such as making the larger 30 kWh battery pack an optional extra rather than a standard fit item on higher trim levels. Where possible, we’ve tried to include the differences between European and North American markets, but since Nissan North America has decided to forgo a launch event for the larger-capacity LEAF, we’ll have to wait until we have a review unit on our fleet to report on the U.S. model further.
It’s also worth noting (to clear up confusion) that for this article we’re using Nissan Europe’s own chosen naming convention for the new 2016 LEAF: a ‘third generation’ model. In reality though, we’d like to point out that this new model is essentially a final mild refresh of the original Nissan LEAF, a car which debuted in 2011 and will be eventually replaced some time in 2017 or 2018 with the true second-generation model.
What does the 30 kilowatt-hour battery mean for Charging and Longevity?
One of the first questions to crop up was about charging times. As we commented in the review, the effect on charging times varies on how you’re charging the vehicle. Rapid charging, via a CHAdeMO DC charging station is, interestingly, unaffected, taking the same time on the larger 30 kilowatt-hour battery pack as the old 24 kilowatt-hour battery pack.
This is because the new battery chemistry provides lower internal resistance, meaning it gets less hot when charged with a high current. As a consequence, the new 30 kWh pack can withstand charging at higher power for longer before tapering off the power as the battery pack’s state of charge nears full.
In the same way, Nissan says that the new 30-kWh battery pack, made with slightly different cell chemistry to the old battery pack, will be more stable in extreme temperature climates, meaning it will be less susceptible to heat-induced premature battery ageing.
Level 2 charging is a slightly different matter. Nissan indicated that the charging time for the 2016 European-spec 30 kWh LEAF on the model’s standard 3kW charger would increase by around 2 hours (given the 6kWh increase in pack size, this seems about right). With the optional 6kW charger, that drops to an extra hour of charging, which is not quite so painful.
And on the matter of that 6kW charger, we’re disappointed to say that as now, on both the European-market Acenta and Tekna trim levels that a 6kW charger will remain an optional extra, adding just over £1000 ($1500) to the price of each LEAF variant on top of the extra cost to upgrade from the 24 kWh pack to the 30 kWh pack. This is particularly disappointing as in North America, 6 kW charging and 30 kWh battery pack come as standard on both the Nissan LEAF SL and SV trim levels.
Will an upgrade be available for the current LEAF?
As we reported previously, the extra milage available is entirely down to improvements in the pack. The motor, controller, and on-board charger are all exactly the same as on the current generation of Nissan LEAF. Yes, it does feel like this is more Generation 2.5 (or 1.75) rather than the full-on Generation 3 Nissan’s press team were using to define the car, but it does certainly keep the LEAF competitive with other cars in its class, so we can’t complain too much.
Despite hearing to the contrary from Nissan North America, Nissan’s European team confirmed that the 30 kWh pack therefore could be fitted to the current generation of LEAF; there is no technical barrier to doing so. The barrier to upgrading the older LEAFs is entirely legal. It turns out that each car fitted with a replacement 30 kWh battery would have to undergo homologation, which they estimated would add around £1500 ($2300) in addition to the cost of the replacement pack. Despite the expense, no doubt some owners will be keen to try this out. Unfortunately, Nissan currently have no plans to make an upgrade route available for these older LEAFs. As LEAFs drift out of warranty, we expect to see salvaged 30 kWh packs making their way into older, out of warranty cars.
What about the e-NV200?
Many of you wanted to know if the e-NV200 would gain the option of the 30 kWh battery. Sadly, Nissan stated there are currently no plans to make the 30 kWh battery available in the e-NV200.
The automaker argues that, despite the arrival of the fab 7-seater version, the e-NV200 is committed to solving the ‘last mile’ delivery problem, and that the 30 kWh battery isn’t necessary. We think that the e-NV200 is far more versatile than this, but currently Nissan has no plans to enhance the e-NV200 with the bigger battery.
What about interior, trim and detail changes?
First up, the dashboard is unchanged in the 30 kWh model from the 24 kWh model. Frustratingly as a consequence, the battery gauge does not gain any extra granularity to show those extra 6 kWh of storage. Instead, the existing 12 bars each indicate around 2.5 kWh instead of 2 kWh. What this does mean is that whilst the warranty is extended to 8 years, the capacity loss required to hit the warranty replacement is 7.5 kWh (as opposed to 6 kWh over 5 years on the 24 kWh battery).
Like its Nissan LEAF SV and SL counterparts in North America, the Euro-spec LEAF Acenta and Tekna models gain the new Nissan Connect telematics system which utilises data from surrounding topography and traffic information in calculating the most efficient route, and in divining its range estimation figures. It also includes features that users of Nissan’s Carwings system will be familiar with: remote climate control, charging and consumption information, charge timers, for example, but is enhanced with multi touch zoom navigation.
The base model Visia (S in U.S. parlance), will gain some of the features of the new Nissan Connect system: remote climate control, charging time and energy consumption information, but the Visia will not feature the GPS (or the reversing camera, even as an option). Although Nissan did not confirm this, it suggests the base model may utilise the current method of range estimation, as it doesn’t have access to local topographic data, something hinted at in the official launch press release.
Unfortunately, Nissan confirmed it has no plans to integrate the system with Android Auto.
And, also unfortunately, despite it being a popular query, LED headlamps and 360 degree view remain a high-end Tekna only feature. Frustratingly, they can’t even be added to the Acenta trim level as optional extras. And in terms of interior trim, those of you hoping for the light grey leather are to be disappointed again; in Europe at least, the Tekna retains black leather, Acenta offering light grey or black suede effect, and black woven trim is all you get for the Visia.
And what about that predicted range?
Nearly every European EV driver knows that the NEDC range is a humourous joke inflicted upon us all by those amusing bureaucrats in the EU. Whilst the European LEAF is slated to have a range of 155 miles (250 km), it’s more or less identical U.S. sibling apparently only achieves 107 miles (170 km). As we all know, this is down the vagaries of how the two agencies test and assign milage predictions to EVs. Thankfully, the EPA rating does bear some resemblance to reality but includes a fair proportion of urban and extra-urban driving.
You wanted to know, what if your drive is mostly motorway? Well, Nissan decline to state, the US information is derived from the EPA tests, and at present, they aren’t sharing that information. If we at Transport Evolved lay our hands on a 30 kWh LEAF for a longer period before the US information is released, we’ll be sure to find out for you.
Does this change your plans? Will you be buying the new 30 kWh LEAF? Let us know in the comments below.
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