Nissan has said its next Leaf will compete with the Chevy Bolt EV and a drive report saying for year-one its battery could have two-thirds the capacity indicates it just may.
The Bolt was built in response to Tesla’s Model 3 as a 200-plus-mile EV priced in the upper-mid 30s but as many an EV fan will point out, the two cars are apples and oranges, and the Leaf due for unveiling in September is a more likely competitor.
Both the Leaf and Bolt fit the four-door, front-wheel-drive hatchback mold, don’t aspire to compete with entry level German luxury performance sedans like the Model 3 will when released in July, and Nissan is hoping to defend turf it established.
As the most-successful EV to date, and still on the market as a generation-one product – albeit having range increases in 2013 and 2016 – the Leaf defines a type of car which the just-released Bolt improves upon in meaningful ways.
For a $37,495 starting price before $7,500 federal tax credit, the Bolt delivers 238 miles of EPA-rated range. It offers midsized volume in a compact footprint, and its quickness and handling are good enough that experienced auto writers have pondered how it would do in an autocross with stickier tires.
Details to this degree are as-yet lacking on the Leaf, but YouTube channel Electrified Journeys Japan reported – in a video since removed – an initial test drive of the 2018 pre-production Leaf indicates it’s off to a good start.
The Leaf was first released in Dec. 2010. Actual photos of the 2018 Leaf are not available. Top photo is the IDS concept which lends some of its design to the new Leaf.
As has been reported before, the new Leaf may come first year with less than the new standard of over 200 miles EPA rated range. The Japanese video says this is due to a 38.4 kWh battery, which is much smaller than the 60 kWh pack in the Bolt.
The 38.4 kWh is said to be actual usable energy, not the total so the whole pack power may be nominally higher, and it might be good for somewhere over 150 miles range – well below the Bolt EV.
After its first year, the Leaf may get a larger battery option to give it greater parity, but it’s believed it will be priced competitively next to the Bolt – and European Opel Ampera-e, meaning an acceptable compromise. In Europe, it’s reported by PushEVs it may cost 10,000 euros less than the Ampera-e, and that’s a sizable savings in exchange for accepting 80 or so miles less range.
One hundred-fifty or more miles is enough for many would-be buyers, and given the Leaf will be all-new, it would stand to attract buyers/lessees to this follow-up from the Japanese automaker.
While there’s been talk of Nissan getting out of the battery making business, it’s reported Nissan didn’t seal a supply agreement deal with LG Chem and it will for the time being keep the AESC battery cell production. As such, the batteries for the U.S. Leaf are supposed to come from Nissan’s plant in Tennessee, and the European Leaf's are to come from Sunderland England.
The New Leaf will come with more power, but probably not as much as the Bolt, unless Nissan updates it between the pre-production drive and its official reveal in Japan in three months from now.
Output is estimated as north of 134 horsepower which means somewhat better pep, and the original Leaf is already acceptably quick from 0-45 mph, and even above, but the Bolt is downright fast.
The Bolt nets 200 horsepower and estimated time from 0-30 is 2.9 seconds, 0-60 is 6.5 seconds, and it actually pulls well up towards its 92 mph top speed.
SEE ALSO: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Review – Video
Both cars have their batteries in the floor for low center of gravity. The Bolt is sharp, and it's expected the Leaf may be also, but as yet there's insufficient indication how closely the two will compare in handling dynamics.
Meanwhile the Leaf is quieter than before, with no more high-pitched whine, and now has more-powerful regenerative braking that may feel stronger than the Bolt EV which allows “one-pedal driving.”
This is accomplished via an additional high-regen mode which feeds so much regenerative braking that it will haul the car down to a stop in lieu of touching the brakes. The former Leaf was not super strong in regen compared to the Bolt, and the driver reportedly interviewed by Electrified Journeys Japan says the new Leaf's regen offers a noticeable difference.
Spy photos and artists renderings of the new Leaf suggest what has been reported for a while – the Leaf’s face will be more “mainstream” while building on the design language of the existing midsized car.
Compared to the Bolt EV, it would arguably be in the same aesthetic league, and come down to personal tastes.
Inside the 2018 model driven did not have as many changes, and offers evolutionary updates.
Due This Fall
The Leaf is expected to become available the month after its September unveiling.
Among details not reported is whether its battery will be liquid cooled, and the existing model’s battery is not – while the Chevy Bolt’s is.
What the scoop is on different battery size options will also be determined for those contemplating holding out for a longer range version, assuming that rumor is correct.
In all it appears the Bolt will be a relative hotrod as that’s been a priority with GM to bake in a fun-to-drive factor.
The Leaf brings to the table Nissan’s experience and knowhow in a second-generation EV, and given Nissan is entering a market expected to be competitive with a car that must endure, one might hope it’s done its homework.
Time will tell.
Electrified Journeys Japan via PushEVs , HybridCars.com