Getting Technical with the 2018 Nissan LEAF SL

2018 Nissan Leaf SL
[Photo: Nissan]
The Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. launched what they claimed to be the world’s first affordable, zero-emission car in the form of the new 2011 LEAF. Based on Nissan’s ”B” car platform which also supports the Versa, the LEAF is 6-inches longer, and capable of comfortably transporting five adults. Nissan has had a 70-year long history in both electric vehicle and battery technologies beginning research and development in 1992. In 1995 the Prairie EV was launched, followed by the Altra EV and then the Hyper Mini and several test and concept electric vehicles. Now in its second generation, the Nissan LEAF rides on a dedicated EV platform, continuing the company’s 20+ year lineage of electric cars. Competitors to the LEAF are the Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model 3 and Hyundai Ioniq, among several others.

WHAT’S NEW

The 2018 second generation Nissan LEAF is all-new, with a refreshing, aerodynamic design. This new version sports 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. The Leaf is available in three trim levels: S, SV, and SL. A solar panel and rear backup camera are optionally available. The SL trim level is priced at $590 less than the previous model, and represents an increase in value of $6,783.

The LEAF’s power comes from a 680-pound, laminated Lithium-ion Manganese Graphite battery pack. It’s mounted low in the vehicle floor for optimum weight distribution, and a high-response synchronous AC electric drive motor (110kW / 147 horsepower and 236 pound feet of torque) delivers energy to the front wheels. The LEAF’s top speed is 90 MPH and the EPA estimated range capability is 150 miles. The battery pack consists of 192 cells, with 8 laminate cells per module and 24  total modules. This is a slightly different configuration compared to the old one, which had 4 cells and 48 modules. Actual range will vary depending upon driving/charging habits, speed, conditions, weather, temperature, and battery age. Naturally, the battery pack does degrade over time. However, it comes with an 8-year, 100,000-mile warranty. Nissan expects the battery to retain 70-80 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 V portable trickle charge cable that may be plugged into any conventional household outlet. Optional 240V charging is available. There are actually three levels of recharge technology. Level I is a 110V (30kW) trickle type that fully recharges in roughly 35 hours. Level II is the normal recharge method for both home and public usage at 3.3kW (220 V) that requires approximately 7.5 hours. You can now do that by simply plugging into a standard 220V clothes dryer plug. The third level – DC Fast Charge is a quick type for public and private use at 50kW that will deliver an 80 percent charge in 40 minutes. Charging for Level 1 and 2 stations must be hardwired.

The standard for quick charging is still pending, and essentially cost-prohibitive for home and public usage at the moment. There are currently thousands of public charging stations nationwide. Nissan positioned the LEAF’s charging ports in a small compartment just in front of the hood. They’ve also included a standard photovoltaic solar panel spoiler on SL models, which supports charging of the 12-volt battery for vehicle accessories.

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.

2018 nissan leaf sl
[Photo: Nissan]

DRIVING MODES AND STYLING

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. You shift the LEAF into gear via a center stack-mounted “Palm shifter” that operates on the principle of a computer mouse or joystick. Nissan also handily placed an Eco button on the steering wheel.

They’ve ideally suited the LEAF for sustainable mobility by partnering with the Sumitomo Trading Corp. Sumitomo created a business around the secondary use of Lithium-ion batteries, employing a 4R business philosophy: Reuse; Refabrication; Recycling; and Resales.

Nissan designed the LEAF’s body to provide “smart fluidity” – a fusion of sophisticated aerodynamic management and aerodynamic acoustics with the freedom provided by the EV layout. 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.

The exterior styling is distinctive and is emphasized by a sharp, upright V-shaped design. That design features long, upward-slanting LED headlights with a blue internal reflective appearance. The headlights effectively split and redirect airflow away from the door mirrors, helping to reduce wind noise and drag. They also consume only about half the electricity of conventional halogen headlights. At the rear, the slim-type aerodynamic vertical LED taillight design and angular corners blend with the aerodynamic muffler-less rear bumper and rear diffuser managing the aerodynamics of the rear end without sacrificing rear interior space. Thanks to those aerodynamic features, the LEAF’s drag coefficient measures only 0.28.

2018 Nissan LEAF SL
[Photo: Nissan]

COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE

The exterior also utilizes a flat underbody (including a large front flat floor cover, motor area undercover, front undercover and rear diffuser with fins) to help manage underbody airflow. Nissan incorporated an innovative vortex-shedding roof-mounted antenna as one of many design elements intended to reduce wind noise. Other noise reduction measures include a quiet-operation windshield wiper motor, a sound insulation windshield design and a dual-isolated motor-mounting system.

The interior includes navigation as standard fare, push button start, a digital meter cluster, a remote charge status monitor and advanced user interface for range management including connectivity through both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smart phone applications. Information screens are provided for tracking energy flow in both the Nav system and driver info display. Nissan upgraded the LEAF’s audio, entertainment and connectivity features, starting with the addition of standard NissanConnect SM with Mobile Apps with 5.0-inch color display for LEAF S models. It includes a Bluetooth hands-free phone, audio streaming, and text messaging system with a USB connection port for compatible devices.

My test 2018 Nissan LEAF was a pre-volume production vehicle that came in the top-of-the-line SL trim. Nissan set the LEAF’s base price at $36,200, while the price as tested came to $37,738 after adding for the Technology Package. That packages adds an electronic parking brake, High Beam Assist, Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Intelligent Lane Intervention and ProPILOT Assist. That prices also includes Destination and Handling charges, but does not account for any applicable tax credits and rebates.

PERFORMANCE

Piloting the all-new Nissan LEAF is really not a dramatically different process from driving a conventional vehicle. The only exception is that the car is eerily quiet. 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.

Acceleration is instantaneous in a luxurious silence, and the handling delivers a nimble feel. For those who may be concerned about operating an electric vehicle in the wet, 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.

2018 Nissan LEAF SL
[Photo: Nissan]

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

I found the Nissan LEAF to be enjoyable, reliable, and efficient in both normal and Eco modes. The new LEAF now delivers a 37% increase in horsepower along with a 26% in torque for enhanced performance. It has also gone from a 30 kWh to a 40 kWh battery using the same footprint. For new LEAF buyers, that means a 33% increase in energy density.

Given all of its advantages, the LEAF makes good sense for purchase or lease for consumers. If you have an average commute (around 60 miles each way), the LEAF is ideal. How can you go wrong with a longer range at a lower price point with stronger performance, a more attractive styling and enhanced technologies?

SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Nissan LEAF SL

On Sale: January 2018
Base MSRP: $36,200
Price as Tested: $37,738 (before tax credits, incentives, rebates)
Electric Motor: 110-kW AC synchronous electric motor (EM57)
Battery: 40 kWh lithium-ion, 192 cells
Horsepower: 147 hp @ 3,282-9,975 RPM
Torque: 236 lbs.-ft. @ 0 – 3,283 RPM
Transmission: Single-speed reducer with shift-by-wire drive selector
Suspension: Front: Independent MacPherson strut w/ coil springs and stabilizer bar

Rear: Torsion beam with integrated stabilizer bar

Brakes: Power-assisted cooperative, regenerative four-wheel vented discs w/ electrically-driven Intelligent Brake, ABS, BA, EBD, AEB
Tires: Michelin Energy Saver 215/50 R17
Driving range: 150 miles
Drag Coefficient: 0.28

Dimensions:

Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length:  176.4 inches
Width: 70.5 inches
Height:  61.4 inches
Turning Circle: 36.1 feet
Curb Weight: 3,508 pounds

 

Arv Voss
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring journalist and member and past officer of several noted automotive journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles as well.