Nissan has revealed the second-generation Leaf, with new technology and increased range versus first generation. Japan-market sales are set to begin 2 October 2017, followed by US, Canada and Europe in early 2018.
IHS Markit perspective
- Significance:Nissan’s second-generation Leaf was revealed by Nissan through a multi-pronged event on 5 September. The second-generation Leaf increases range and power, though not at launch to match high-profile competition from Chevrolet Bolt EV or Tesla Model 3.
- Implications:Nissan’s Leaf was the first mass-market EV, launched in 2010. Since then, competitors have been introduced, with more scheduled. The second generation needs to re-establish Nissan’s leadership in this field.
- Outlook:With this second generation, Leaf faces a variety of new competitors and a tougher environment. Nissan prioritizes lower cost over higher range, at least in initial launch configurations. Nissan is betting consumers will appreciate the trade-off of lower cost for lesser range versus competition. Nissan has high expectations for the model’s sales in Japan, indicating it expects to see sales in the home country double or triple the first generation.
At an event in Japan lead by Nissan Motor Corporation president and CEO Hiroto Saikawa, Nissan introduced the second-generation Leaf. The event was also livestreamed on Facebook and to an event in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States. The new car will go on sale in Japan first, on 2 October 2017, followed by US, Canada and Europe in early 2018. Nissan says it will be sold in 60 markets worldwide.
The new vehicle takes an all-new look that is drastically different from the outgoing car, and more contemporary than space-age experiment. Nissan VP of design Alfonso Albiasa, while introducing the new design, reminded the crowd that the first generation was launched before there were any EVs in the market on which to draw design experience from. With the second generation, there are ample examples in market, and the second-generation Leaf will blend right in with the market. It is more angular and crisp, and the optional contrast color roof contributes to a more premium look. The car makes use of Nissan family DNA design cues, while the first one looked to stand out more than fit in. There is another take on the V-Motion grille, well suited for this size, as well as a family look to the taillights and floating roof (not unlike Maxima or Murano). The second-generation Leaf, however, does not improve on the first generation’s low coefficient of drag (Cd): both iterations have 0.28 Cd figures.
Based on images released by Nissan North America, the updated interior is also far more contemporary than cutting edge, in terms of design and layout. In Nissan’s statements, the company says it will offer improved materials for a more comfortable environment. The new looks are reflective of the changes in the EV market and the efforts to move these products into the mainstream, efforts that include more mainstream packaging and interior layout. The interior also sports blue contrast stitching and blue illuminated stop/start buttpon and shift knob finisher, a signature EV colour for Nissan. Interior dimensions are essentially unchanged, Nissan says, though the rear cargo area has been redesigned to increase available space. In terms of dimensions, the second-generation Leaf takes the same 106.3-inch wheelbase, but is slightly longer (176.4 inches versus 175.0 inches). Gross vehicle weight is essentially the same, as the new car GVW is 4,453 pounds compared with 4,431 pounds of the first generation (US specifications).
Technology highlights include the next application of ProPilot for Japan and the first application of the technology for US. In Japan, the Leaf ushers in ProPilot Park Assist as well, designed to either parallel park or perpendicular park, including in garages. The Leaf will be available with Nissan’s safety suite of driver assist systems as well, including lane intervention, lane departure warning, intelligent emergency braking, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and intelligent around view monitor with moving object detection. While an exhaustive list of this type of driver-assist technology, the safety suite is already available in other Nissan products. Nissan ups the connectivity game as well, offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in cars equipped with navigation screen, in the flush-surface center display screen.
Nissan is also boasting its e-pedal system, which allows drivers to operate the vehicle most of the time using only the accelerator pedal. When the accelerator is fully released, regenerative and friction brakes are automatically applied to bring the car to a complete stop, even on a hill. While Chevrolet’s Bolt EV also offers similar operation, the Nissan system, as Nissan describes, may be able to be used in more situations than the Chevrolet system. Nissan Leaf’s powertrain increases horsepower to 147-hp and torque to 236 pound-feet, for improved acceleration. Nissan notes that power is up by 38% compared with the outgoing car and torque is improved 26%. Charging on normal systems is 16 hours with 3kW and 8 hours with 6kW, though a quick charge (to 80% range) can be achieved in 40 minutes. During the presentation, Nissan said that it expects a typical Japanese owner may need to charge only once per week.
Nissan says the new 40kW battery pack (compared with 30kW of the prior car) has an improved individual cell structure of laminated lithium-ion battery cells and is the same size as the prior car, despite increased energy-storage capacity. Nissan also notes the lithium-ion battery pack uses enhanced electrode materials, with revised chemistry for higher power density as well as greater battery durability on charge and discharge. The charge port remains at the front of the vehicle, though reconfigured for easier use. The new car also will offer NissanConnect, which will make it possible to “store surplus solar power during the daytime and then use it to help power the home in the evening,” according to Nissan’s statement. Nissan also has updated the Leaf smartphone app to enable monitoring of the state of charge, schedule charging “to benefit from optimal energy tariffs”, find the nearest charging station, and pre-heat or cool the car prior to getting in.
The Leaf’s updated chassis puts heavy components—including the battery—in the centre of the body, improving directional stability. Electric power steering is improved a new control logic and increased steering torsion bar stiffness.
Outlook and Implications
With this second generation, Leaf faces a variety of new competitors and a tougher environment. Nissan prioritizes lower cost over higher range, at least in initial launch configurations. Nissan is betting consumers will appreciate the trade-off of lower cost for lesser range versus competition, a stance the company says is driven by feedback from its customer base. However, announcing a more powerful version is in development will enable Leaf to address consumers with a higher degree of range anxiety; the more powerful and more expensive version will be launched in second half 2018. The vehicle with the longer range can give Nissan the ability to conquest uneasy buyers, where the launch product is tailored toward the current customer base. Nissan has high expectations for the model’s sales in Japan, indicating it expects to see sales in the home country double or triple the first generation.
Nissan is extremely bullish on the new car, despite lower range than high-profile Chevrolet Bolt EV and Tesla Model 3 introductions, and noted that it expects the Leaf could become the core of the company. The Leaf, according to Nissan, embodies the principles of the Intelligent Mobility blueprint announced at CES 2017. In remarks during the vehicle’s presentation, Nissan noted that Japan was the logical first market because of that country’s more developed charging infrastructure (Nissan cited 7,200 fast chargers and 28,000 regular chargers publicly available in the country) and the affinity for new technology of the new-car buyers in Japan. During the reveal presentation in Japan, Nissan said it is confident it will be able to double or triple sales of the vehicle in its home market. IHS Markit spoke with executives in North America following the reveal; while they are also optimistic regarding the new car’s performance, they are not suggesting a similar increase in US sales. In addition to EVs and ProPilot self-driving vehicles, Nissan is also looking to boost investment as well as demand for its e-Power hybrid technology in the Note subcompact car. Both technologies received a positive response from buyers in the country, with sales of the Note and Serena (featuring the ProPilot) recording growth. According to IHS Markit data, Japanese sales of the Nissan Note increased 57.7% year on year (y/y) to 105,475 units from January to August, up from 66,892 units during the same 2016 period. Sales of the Serena surged by 77.6% y/y to 73,249 units from January to August, also up from 41,245 units during the same 2016 period. IHS Markit expects Japanese sales of the Note and Serena to reach 140,775 units and 102,314 units in 2017, respectively. For the new Leaf, we forecast Japanese sales of 13,759 units in 2017 and 20,137 units in 2018, and 15,755 units in the US in 2018. Nissan says it has sold more than 283,000 Leafs globally, with 112,000 of those in the US. IHS Markit forecasts global sales in the range of 84,000 units per year in 2020, compared with a peak of 60,612 units in 2014 for the first generation.
Launching with the formula of trading off range for cost enables Nissan to come in at a more attractive price than high-profile Chevrolet Bolt EV and Telsa Model 3 competitors, bringing in seven more years of production credibility to the market. The decision to offer a more powerful battery will not be unique, as Tesla already does so with all of its entries. While the Leaf’s range does not best the Chevrolet or the Tesla, it is stronger than Hyundai Ioniq and Kia Soul EV.
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