THERE is no need to rush to your local dealer for a new Nissan Leaf. For a start, the Leaf 2.0 electric car is still more than a year away.
It's also unlikely to be any cheaper than the $51,000-ish of the outgoing Leaf, even if the last of those cars were offered to fleet buyers at about $32,000. On the road.
Nissan promises the new Leaf will double its plug-in battery range, from 200km to 400km. Further, it looks sharper in the bodywork and its new technological wizardry includes regenerative braking, a rear-vision camera and what Nissan calls E-Pedal - the driver relies only on the accelerator for all but the most dramatic stopping.
A short preview drive in Tokyo with Leaf 2.0 shows that Nissan has done some worthwhile updating but it's still not a breakthrough car.
"Yes, the platform itself is carry-over from the original Leaf, so we can use the same battery size,” says chief vehicle engineer Hiroki Isobe.
He says rearranging the fundamental physics inside the battery, including the lithium cells, doubles the energy density. The car will accelerate to 100km/h in 8.0 seconds.
For peace of mind, he says the Leaf's battery warranty is eight years and 160,000km.
"Acceleration and cornering is already at a good level, compared with a combustion engine. To enhance the EV experience we also introduced the E-Pedal, which allows the driver to use just the accelerator for most driving. It has very smooth deceleration and can hold the car on a hill.”
The latest Leaf still takes eight hours to charge at home but Nissan is close to a commercial inductive set-up, where the owner parks over a magnetic coil in the garage floor that's like a giant electric-toothbrush charger. There is no news yet on the cost.
Instead of wheel-mounted generators to charge the battery and provide regenerative braking, the new Leaf taps the conventional hydraulic braking circuit to generate charge and provide a more "normal” braking feel.
Each Leaf, he says, has a cast aluminium case for the electrical inverter that's made in Australia, complete with a kangaroo stamp.
ON THE ROAD
In Japan, a land of nuclear power and endless traffic congestion, an electric car like the Nissan Leaf makes lots of sense.
Our (very) short preview drive in and around Tokyo includes light freeway traffic where I can get the car briefly up to 100km/h.
It is as quiet and smooth as the original Leaf, with real punch from traffic lights, although the ride seems more jerky than before.
The car stands out in traffic but I'm disappointed that the Storm Trooper-style white-plastic panels have been dropped from the cabin and it's now filled with cheap, hard black plastic.
Rear vision comes from a camera feeding a monitor in the shape and position of a regular central mirror. The camera gives a great view but the display is disconcerting - Isobe says this can be fixed. I'm a great fan of the e-Pedal and only once do I use my left foot on the brake to come to a halt. at a traffic light.
The test car is fitted with ProPILOT, which Nissan claims as a first step towards autonomous driving - in fact, it's radar cruise control with lane-keep assistance. The operation is coarse and jerky compared with that of other makes.
There is no spare in the car, which helps with luggage capacity, though Nissan is planning a space-saver for Australia.
There are inevitable questions about the claimed range of 400km between charges but the biggest question for Australia is the price.
Nissan Australia could have a winner if it gets a deal that works for more than a handful of early adopters and full-on greenies. It has a 12-month window to negotiate with head office.
AT A GLANCE
PRICE $50,000 (est)
ON SALE November 2018
ENGINE Electric motor, 110kW/320Nm; FWD
SAFETY Not tested, 6 airbags