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Nissan Turns Over a Greener New Leaf
First Drive: One of best things about the 2018 Nissan Leaf EV is it doesn’t look like an all-electric car, but is contemporary in styling including the Nissan signature “V Motion” grille treatment.
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Contemporary styling, reassuring range and one-pedal driving.
- What’s Worst: Rear headroom is a challenge for anyone over six feet. Main gauge cluster blots out when the sun shines directly on it.
- What’s Interesting: Leaf comes with a portable charger cable that does away with the need for a dedicated, hard wired 240-volt outlet.
YOUNTVILLE, CA: How far all-electric vehicular propulsion has progressed can be seen in the second generation 2018 Nissan Leaf EV (electric vehicle).
Earlier this year I had a brief, and I mean brief, spin in an early example of the new Leaf. But this time I wanted to push the Leaf to the limits of its range.
Someone else has said, “there are liars, damn liars and battery engineers”.
Yes, it’s a stretch, but truth is the Laws of Physics don’t change and that includes batteries.
So until hydrogen/electric fuel cell vehicles become a reality, carmakers around the globe are going to have to keep slaving away coaxing power from whatever technology they can devise.
Nissan was arguably the first with a pure electric car when it introduced the Leaf in 2011 and to this day it is the largest selling EV on the planet.
As good as it is, Nissan’s competitors have caught up and surpassed the Leaf, especially on range – the holy grail of EV engineers.
The second generation Leaf outdoes the original 2011 in just about every department, starting with the motor which is now 110 kW for 147 hp and 236 lb/ft of torque compared to 80 kW with 107 hp, 207 lb/ft of torque.
The battery is bigger at 40 kWh versus 24 kWh, making the new Leaf quicker from 0-60 mph in 8.8 seconds, as opposed to 10 seconds on the 2011.
The big payoff is range of the 2018 at 241 km compared to 160 km with a 2012 SV model tested here during that year.
Cargo volume is also up at 30 cu ft versus 24 cu ft.
All Leafs come standard with a Level 1 (110 volt)/Level 2 (240 volt) portable charger cable located in a bag in the trunk that does away with the need to hot wire a 240-volt outlet.
Charging a completely flat battery with Level 1 takes 35 hours. Level 2 is 12 hours, and if you have access to a 300-volt fast charger, it takes 7.5 hours.
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Suspension remains the same with MacPherson struts up front and a twist beam at the rear for the wheelbase at 106 in.
Walking up to the 2018 Leaf, it doesn’t have that “I’m Saving the Planet; I’m Saving the Planet” lozenge look, but is more angular with a grille incorporating Nissan’s “V Motion” design language.
A breakthrough is Leaf’s E-Pedal, which makes it possible to accelerate, brake and stop without ever using the brake pedal and I mean ever.
Located where the accelerator is, you press down to go and the harder you press the faster you go.
Lift and regenerative braking takes over and you slow.
It took me less than 10 km to be able to anticipate when to lift — to the point I drove the rest of the way with the E-Pedal alone.
Even at a steep uphill stop sign, the Leaf stays stopped with the brakes on, holding you there until departure. You can, and my co-driver and I did, stop on an incline and step out of the Leaf and it stayed put.
But the best part was entering a corner and lifting a bit as the Leaf slowed just enough so I never had to use the brake pedal.
While not a sportscar by any stretch of the imagination, the Leaf has a lot of torque so you can power into a corner, lift and then power out quite smartly.
We drove the entire day by E-Pedal with “Econ” mode on, although you can turn both off with a switch on the centre console for more spirited performance, but I doubt many new Leaf owners would do that.
There are several ways power consumption is depicted, the primary one being the main gauge cluster that shows the amount of draw and clicks off each mile of range in countdown fashion.
How much draw you put on the battery pack is something you use frugally.
For instance, on California Highway 101, we tried to hold it at 60 mph, which is roughly the same as 100 km/h, and I watched how much was being drained
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At 58 miles (we were in the U.S.) to go to our destination, when I put on the climate control, the range dropped to 55 miles. Click it off and the gauge popped back to 58 miles.
How this would affect us in a Canadian winter sub-zero temperatures with the heater and defroster on is something I’m going to try this winter and I’ll report back.
But I do know Canadian standard equipment includes heated front seats and heated steering wheel (yeah!).
Other standard features were LED headlight and LED daytime running lights with Automatic Emergency Braking in addition of full suite of driver/safety aids.
Lastly, provincial rebates, especially in Ontario, make the Leaf a viable fiscal choice compared to an ordinary compact car.
Nissan was the first to take the all-electric car from being something of sideshow into the mainstream.
With the second generation, 2018 Leaf is still leading the global switch to electrification.
2018 Nissan Leaf
BODY STYLE: Compact electric hatchback
DRIVE METHOD: Front-wheel-drive, no gears, single-speed reducer
PROPULSION: Electric motor/lithium ion battery pack producing 110 kW for 147 hp, 236 lb/ft of torque
RANGE: 241 km (approx. depending on temperature, terrain, driving style, accessory use, etc.)
MILEAGE: 2.1eL/100 km (electric equivalent)
CHARGE TIME: (0-full), Level 1, 35 hours; Level 2, 12 hours; Level 3, 7.5 hours
CARGO CAPACITY: 668 litres (23.6 cu ft) behind second row seats, 850 litres (30 cu ft) seat folded
PRICE: S, $35,998; SV, $39,998; SL, $41,998
PROVINCIAL REBATES: BC, $5,000; Quebec, $8,000; Ontario, $14,000