Simple Nissan Leaf EV green without the gimmicks
Critics of electric cars point to the obvious downsides of range, range anxiety, and price. But few realize the upsides until they own an EV. The Nissan Leaf EV is a good usher to introduce the simple pleasure of electric driving.
Among the assets of driving a battery-electric vehicle is not having to pump gas. Then there are the obvious incentives of reduced vehicle maintenance and an ever-topped-off tank after an overnight charge. And somewhere on the list of assets will be reduced tailpipe emissions.
There are several mainstream battery-electric models now, including the Chevrolet Bolt, Ford Focus EV, Hyundai Ioniq, VW eGolf, and today’s tester, the 2018 Nissan Leaf.
Chevrolet gave the EV segment a jolt with its 250-mile Bolt. This little hatchback can work as a commuter (with HOV-lane access) to those who have long daily commutes.
2nd generation Nissan EV Leaf
The second-generation 2018 Nissan Leaf EV debuted with a boost in battery power in a complete redesign. The new Leaf has about 160 miles of range, but a higher-capacity (60 kWh) model is planned for 2019.
The Leaf format seems to be simple efficiency in a mainstream package. It provides useful advanced technologies without the fuss of “premium” add-ons or gimmicky EV tricks.
The five-seat, front-wheel-drive hatchback is about the same size as before. In my week of testing, it did not matter if I was sitting on a battery capable of 160 miles or 250. I seldom drive more than 100 miles in a day, and I’d just plug in when at home. The car can chart a course to a public fast-charging station, but there can be wait times.
Nissan Leaf EV Pricing
The Nissan Leaf EV is sold in three trim levels with starting prices that range from $30,875-$37,085, including the $885 freight charge from Smyrna, Tenn. Standard equipment includes keyless locking with push-button start, Bluetooth phone and audio connection, and automatic emergency braking.
Today’s tester is the midrange SV that was $36,855, including the all-weather and technology packages. Pricing does not include the federal tax credit of $7,500 or California’s $2,500 EV rebate. (Details at DriveClean.ca.gov).
All models have the same driving range and powertrain: a 110-kW AC electric motor and 40 kWh lithium-ion battery of 192 cells. Its 147 horsepower with 236 foot-pounds of torque provides instant forward thrust. The transmission is a continuously variable automatic.
The new lithium-ion battery design packs 67 percent more power but is the same size as before, stored in the floor.
Standard on all models is a 6.6 kW onboard charger and portable trickle-charge cable (120-volt) and a charging timer. A dead battery can take up to 35 hours to charge on 110-volt (household current), but it drops to 7.5 hours on the 220-volt home charger. Or use a public fast charger for an 80 percent charge in 40 minutes.
And as with other EVs, a smartphone app can monitor the state of charge. The owner can also set a charging schedule or pre-heat or cool the cabin.
One of the Leaf’s more engaging innovations is the e-Pedal accelerator. It is an electronic function to recapture more braking-energy regeneration on deceleration. The system felt heavy-footed at first, but it didn’t take long to modulate acceleration. The driver can lift gently to decelerate or let the car come to a complete stop.
I quickly learned to anticipate the distance to stopping by just lifting the accelerator pedal to come to a gentle stop.
Acceleration force is quick when needed with a hard push on the pedal. But always use the brake pedal when immediate stopping power is needed. The electric power steering is well calibrated for a “real steering feel.”
Ride and handling
Ride quality is comfortably firm and the car does not feel heavy in its handling; the curb weight of 3,468 pounds is 112 pounds less than the Bolt.
The interior has midsize-car dimensions. The front headroom is tall at 41.2 inches and the legroom is also long at 42.1 inches.
The rear legroom is tight at 33.5 inches and the bench seat is short on thigh support for adults. There is no center position head restraint, so it is a better four-seater than five.
Cargo capacity is large at 23.6 cubic feet, or fold the 60/40 back seat for longer items and up to 30 cu.ft.
The roomy front seat space benefits from a cab-forward layout. The large dashboard and outstretched windshield pillars fork at the base of the side mirrors to give more cornering visibility. The fork is helpful, but drivers will need to take a second look for pedestrians in crosswalks. The wide rear roof pillars restrict the rearview, which can complicate watching for traffic at the rear three-quarter.
The EPA calculates that the annual Leaf “fuel” cost is $600. The cost of gasoline for a comparably sized gasoline-powered vehicle would be double or triple that cost.
A driving range of 250 miles is good for bragging rights. But the Leaf’s reasonable price point might be the more reassuring numbers.
2018 Nissan Leaf SV
- Body style: midsize, 5-passenger, front-drive hatchback EV
- Electric motor: 110-kW AC synchronous electric motor
- Battery: 40-kWh laminated lithium-ion, 192 cells
- Power: 147-hp; 236 lb.-ft. torque from 0-3,283 rpm
- Transmission: CVT
- Estimated driving range: 150-160 miles
- Charging: 6.6-kW onboard charger; 35 hours on 110-volt (household current); 7.5 hours 220-volt; quick charge in 40 minutes to 80 percent
BY THE NUMBERS
- Cargo space: 23.6-30 cu. ft.
- Front head/leg room: 41.2/42.1 in.
- Rear head/leg room: 37.3/33.5 in.
- Length/wheelbase: 176.4/106.3 in.
- Co-efficient of drag: 0.28
- Curb weight: 3,468 lbs.
- Turning circle: 36.1 ft.
Standard equipment includes: keyless locking and push-button starter, 17-inch all-season 215/50 Michelin Energy Saver tires and alloy wheels, a rearview camera with guidance lines, portable trickle charge cable, HVAC timer to heat or cool cabin, 60/40 folding back seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Nissan Connect with navigation
Safety features include: 6 airbags, stability and traction controls, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, driver-awareness alert
Base price: $33,375, including $885 freight charge; price as tested $36,885
Options on test vehicle: All-weather package, $900, includes heated front seats, steering wheel, and side mirrors; SV Tech package, $2,200, includes 8-way power front seat with 2-way lumbar, universal garage opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror, LED headlights and running lights, portable charge cable (120v, 240v), automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, ProPilot Assist with steering assist, intelligent cruise control, electric parking brake, high-beam assist, lane intervention; splash guards $190; carpeted floor mats and cargo mat $190
Where assembled: Smyrna, Tenn.
Li-ion battery pack warranty: 8-years/100,000-miles against defects and excessive capacity loss.