First Drive: Nissan LEAF 30kWh
Having taken 25% of the European EV market, Nissan has put the emphasis on usability, introducing a second, larger-capacity, battery as a £1,600 upgrade on Acenta and Tekna versions. Capable of storing 25% more energy unit used to date, the 30kWh battery provides a 155-mile range under NEDC conditions. Tesla and BYD aside, that’s the largest in the industry – an easy benefit to understand.
Granted, this still doesn’t make it an ideal fit for long-distance motorway drivers, but it is significant. Real-world gains of around 20-25 miles mean journeys which would have ended with sweaty palms are now comfortably within reach. It makes the LEAF easier to live with and petrol or diesel easier to live without – Nissan reckons most UK buyers will go for the larger battery.
The key to all of this is four additional years of battery development. Improvements to the cell chemistry and materials used in the electrodes have improved the energy density, so there’s no increase in the physical size of the battery pack and only a 21kg weight disadvantage, despite the capacity boost.
Durability has also improved, and the battery is now warrantied to retain at least 75% of its capacity for eight years and 100,000 miles, rather than five years and 60,000 miles for the 24kWh unit. It’s well beyond most fleet replacement cycles, but shows the confidence Nissan has in the technology. In reality, many cover much longer distances with hardly any degradation and only a handful of the 200,000 sold worldwide have suffered battery faults.
Test routes speak volumes, and it’s not uncommon for economical vehicles to be launched on glass-smooth, incline-free roads around Amsterdam. But Nissan pitted journalists against 95 miles of urban, rural and highway roads including the Col de Turini mountain pass in southern France. Most returned with around a third of the battery remaining, which implies a real-world range of around 115-120 miles should be easily achievable.
Of course, it’s worth considering that a larger battery will also lengthen the time needed to fully charge. This takes around ten hours on the slowest 3kW charging points, but the £1,150 upgrade to a 6.6kW on-board charger cuts that down to five hours and includes a second cable for public charging points.
All LEAFs include DC rapid charging using the most widely available connection in the UK and, as the cells able to take full power for longer than the 24kWh battery, an 80% charge is still possible in around half an hour. With the extra range, drivers should need to spend less time waiting at motorway services.
They should also spend less time looking for somewhere to plug in – the 2016 model year adding a new NissanConnect EV infotainment system with an improved smartphone app and real-time charging point information. Again, features which add confidence for drivers, as well as removing one of the biggest frustrations of the outgoing model.
Already well-loved by existing customers, a large increase in electric range means a wider cross-section of potential newcomers will be able to consider into the world’s best-selling electric car.
Sector: Lower Medium
Type: Battery electric vehicle
Price: £24,490-£27,940 (after Plug-in Car Grant)*
Electric range: 155 miles
CO2 (tailpipe): 0g/km
Charging port: J1772 AC/CHAdeMO DC
* 24kWh priced from £20,790-£26,340 after PiCG