The Nissan Leaf is based on a dedicated electric platform and is a 100-percent plug-in electric vehicle with zero emissions. There is no supplemental gasoline engine as in a hybrid electric vehicle.
The Nissan Leaf has no gas tank, tailpipe, nor does it have a conventional transmission to complicate maintenance. In fact, the only real maintenance requirements are tire rotation and windshield wiper blade replacement. Okay, washing and waxing occasionally will certainly help to maintain a pristine exterior appearance.
The all-new 2018 Nissan Leaf has a refreshing aerodynamic design form with dynamic proportions, sporting a floating roofline and signature V-Motion grille with a striking crystal blue pyramid panel. Other signature design cues are the “Boomerang” lamps and enhanced brand symbol. With a starting price of $29,990, the Leaf is available in three trim levels: S, SV, and SL, which includes leather seating surfaces.
Leaf’s power comes from a 680-pound laminated Lithium-ion Manganese Graphite battery pack mounted low in the vehicle floor for optimum weight distribution, and a high-response synchronous AC electric drive motor (110kW/147 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque) delivering energy to the front wheels.
The EPA estimated range capability is 150-plus miles. Battery capacity decreases with time and use. Actual range will vary depending upon driving/charging habits, speed, conditions, weather, temperature, and battery age. The battery comes with an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty, and the battery is expected to retain 70 to 80 percent of its original storage capacity after 10 years.
When the battery power is drained to a minimum point, recharging may be accomplished via a supplied 110-volt portable trickle charge cable that may be plugged into any conventional household outlet.
There are three operational modes: a normal Drive mode; an Eco mode, which increases efficiency and delivers more range by reducing power output while increasing regenerative braking; and a B-mode, which aggressively engages regenerative braking during deceleration. Directional selection is accomplished via a center stack-mounted “palm shifter” that operates on the principle of a computer mouse or joystick, and there is an eco button located on the steering wheel.
The smooth, elegant lines of the body begin with the low, compact hood, and moves through the distinctive shoulder character line and on toward the integrated large rear spoiler.
Piloting this second-generation Nissan Leaf is really not a dramatically different process from driving a conventionally powered or hybrid-powered vehicle, except that it is eerily quiet. Acceleration is instantaneous in a luxurious silence, and the handling delivers a nimble feel.
One tends to notice road and wind noise more due to the lack of an engine. Drive rationally and conservatively and watch a tree grow graphically in the information panel, or drive in a completely normal manner and simply monitor the potential range balance.
The e-Pedal’s advanced one-pedal operation precludes using the brake pedal except in emergency situations — simply lifting off the accelerator activates regenerative braking action which will even bring the vehicle to a complete stop.
The new ProPILOT Assist is a “hands-on” feature that performs as a steering assist for the driver with intelligent cruise control and electric power steering. It is not an autonomous self-driving system.
For those who may be concerned about operating an electric vehicle in wet weather conditions, there’s really nothing to worry about as the Leaf has undergone severe durability testing, packed in ice to measure internal pressure by rapid cooling and fully submersed as well as exposed to high-pressure washing. It has proven to be completely watertight. In addition, the battery pack has escaped damage in a 40-mph frontal offset crash test.
I found the Nissan Leaf to be fun, enjoyable, reliable and most of all, efficient in both normal and Eco modes. The new Leaf now delivers a 37-percent increase in horsepower along with a 26-percent increase in torque for enhanced performance, and it has gone from a 30kW to a 40kW battery using the same footprint, for a 33-percent increase in energy density.
The Leaf makes good sense for purchase or lease for consumers with an average commute (60 miles or less each way — more if mid-point charging is available).