Nissan has unveiled its second-generation Leaf EV which comes with a sportier and sleeker look, apart from boasting a vastly improved driving range.
Showcasing a cheaper-than-rivals sticker price, the new Leaf is intended to appeal to the mass market – especially in China – as rival EV maker Tesla sticks to the luxury segment.
“The Nissan Leaf continues to be the true mass-market leader,” said Daniele Schillaci, head of Nissan’s electric vehicle business, at a premiere event in Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo. He emphasized Nissan’s track record of safety and reliability, and 84 years of manufacturing history. “When the Nissan Leaf first premiered, our competitors said we were crazy. Yet today, almost every automaker is following our lead.”
Analysts agree that Nissan and Tesla are chasing different markets. “Tesla’s customers are more in the premium zone, while the Nissan Leaf is in the volume zone, competing with models like the Toyota Prius,” said Takaki Nakanishi, a Tokyo-based auto analyst.
Nikkei Asian Review reports that the revamped Nissan Leaf will hit the Japanese market on Oct. 2 and the U.S. in December.
Nissan plans to keep the new vehicle’s price at a relatively low $29,020 – as compared to the $35,000 price tag for Tesla’s Model 3 and $37,495 for GM’s Bolt EV. The original Leaf model has sold more than 280,000 units since its release in 2010, a modest tally that still makes it the world’s best-selling EV.
The biggest change with current generation EVs are their driving range. At 400 km per charge, the new Leaf is a sharp improvement on the current model’s 280 km, and matches or beats comparable Tesla and GM models, reports Nikkei Asian Review.
The second-generation Leaf also has several autonomous driving features, such as self-parking and one-pedal driving, which allows the driver to stop the car by simply lifting the foot off the accelerator. These features, however, are not just aimed at the U.S., the Leaf’s biggest market, but also at China, a country many people see as the most promising market going forward.
With battery prices dropping rapidly and driving ranges becoming practical, analysts are predicting that EVs will soon become competitive with mainstream gasoline-powered cars. This has in turn prompted more automakers to announce plans to release their own EVs, including Toyota Motor and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz.
Image credits and content: Ken Kobayashi/Nikkei Asian Review