Confirmed: Future Nissan LEAF, Renault ZOE Electric Cars Will (Eventually) Share Same Platform

Six years ago yesterday, Japanese automaker Nissan delivered its first LEAF electric car. Almost a year later to the day, French automaker Renault delivered its first Renault ZOE electric car.

Despite having a mutual majority shareholding in one another under the longstanding Renault-Nissan alliance — and having a joint goal of achieving a combined half-million electric car sales total by 2013 — the two companies have kept their electric vehicle development programs largely separate. For example, while Renault relied on LG Chem for the battery packs used in its ZOE, Nissan built its own lithium-ion cells in-house through a partnership with NEC Corp, something that became painfully apparent earlier this year when Renault announced a brand-new, 40 kilowatt-hour pack upgrade for the 2017 Renault ZOE, leaving the 2017 Nissan LEAF far behind in the electric vehicle range charts.

Renault and Nissan have been working together on other areas — like autonomous vehicles.

In some ways, it seemed to make sense for the two companies to develop very different electric cars. Alongside allowing the Renault-Nissan alliance to compare and contrast the technology in each (CHadeMO vs AC quick charging, or battery rental vs battery purchase, for example), developing the two cars separately allowed for the Renault-Nissan alliance to cater to a wider global market. The ZOE, for example, is technically a supermini (sub-compact), while the Nissan LEAF is a compact car, one class larger than the ZOE.

Nissan and Renault will eventually share a platform for both LEAF and ZOE, but we don’t think it’ll be for a while.

But while the current Nissan LEAF and Renault ZOE have very little in common with one another, the Renault-Nissan alliance has decided to pool resources for future versions of the ZOE and LEAF, building a brand-new platform that both vehicles will share. This would not only save costs at the two companies, but potentially either shrink the LEAF down in size or (more likely) turn the ZOE from a subcompact into a compact.

That’s according to Arnaud Deboeuf, the senior vice president of Renault-Nissan BV, who told Automotive News Europe (subscription required) that the Renault-Nissan alliance is working on a new common platform that it will launch some time in the next four years to underpin future electric cars from Renault and Nissan.

Details at the current time are sparse, but French media reports suggest that the new platform will debut with a new Renault Zoe some time between 2018 and 2020. Importantly, this means that the new shared platform won’t be released in time for the upcoming 2018 Nissan LEAF, which is believed to have a 60 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack for a real-world range in excess of 200 miles per charge.

Interestingly in its report, Automotive News Europe referred to the 2018 LEAF as nothing more than a “Leaf facelift”. Given that the LEAF is now six years old and ready to be retired for a second-generation model, we’re skeptical this is the case. Even if it came with a 60 kilowatt-hour, 200+ mile battery pack, we think the original LEAF looks a little long in the tooth.

Despite Nissan’s 60 kWh long-range LEAF prototype, we hope Nissan produces a new model for 2018.

Instead, we think a more likely scenario is for Nissan to build a new next-generation 2018 LEAF on the same chassis and platform as the existing LEAF, but with revised drivetrain, completely new body and larger-capacity battery pack. As Deboeuf himself notes in his Automotive News Europe interview, the decision to develop a new platform takes place about ten years before that platform is seen underpinning a production vehicle. Even if Renault-Nissan has been working together on such a platform for a few years, it would take several more before it was ready to underpin a new vehicle.

And with the electric vehicle marketplace moving at an astonishing rate — and Nissan starting to fall behind its competitors in the range charts — we’re thinking there’s another LEAF (and possibly another ZOE) before a shared common platform unites the two plug-in cars.

 

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  • CDspeed

    Strange how the Leaf, despite its early lead, is now falling out of favor. And now it’s going to ride on the coat tails of the Renault Zoe. The Zoe really has turned out to be the better car, and it makes me wonder if Nissan dropped the ball on purpose. Nissan is one of the automakers asking Trump to roll fuel economy goals back…..

  • Martin Lacey

    Remember that Nissan & Renault were at the forefront of EV innovation (not discounting the i-Miev and derivatives). Since then the benefit of the skateboard design for EV’s has been proven and will no doubt become the norm. As such it benefits Nissan/Renault to share costs by working on a joint platform that benefits from torsion rigidity, low centre of gravity and clutter free architecture.

  • Matt Beard

    So… The Zoe has just has a “facelift” (battery wise) and the Leaf is due to get a facelift (with new battery) in the next 12-18 months.

    Nissan agreed with the UK government to keep producing the Leaf at Sunderland (including the revised model).

    We also know from the info above that the Zoe will probably be first on the new platform, in about 2019?

    My prediction is that the new platform will be made in France, initially churning out Zoes with full next-gen Leafs added to the production a year or so later. Between 2018 and 2020 Sunderland will produce a slightly revamped 60kWh Leaf that will not sell that well.

    One final thing to consider. Would Brits buy a Nissan made in France? Probably. Would French buy a Renault made in England? Non!

  • I sincerely hope a 3-phase charger is part of the new platform.

  • Frank Galpin

    So- why not for the US market, Nissan-Renault slide the Renault line in to the Nissan dealer network as an all electric division? The Zoe might not cut too far into the Leaf market, but it would give buyers a choice. Bring the Kangoo in as a city delivery van alternative. A lot of Nissan dealers here in the US think the Leaf is just a pain. But with three models, they might have to actually deal with the “Future.” There are two Nissan dealers near me in Connecticut that have never even SOLD a Leaf, once in six years!!! They have never even installed the Nissan mandated outside wall chargers.