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Technical analysis - Archive

08/01/2019
Smart mobility

Nissan Leaf

 

The future of mobility, according to Nissan, does not necessarily have to rely on a vehicle, but on an entire social project named Nissan Intelligent Mobility. From the very start – back in 2010 when the electric Leaf was first launched - it was quite clear that expectations related to a broader spectrum of issues, able to influence the course of time. 

The future of mobility, according to Nissan, does not necessarily have to rely on a vehicle, but on an entire social project named Nissan Intelligent Mobility. From the very start – back in 2010 when the electric Leaf was first launched - it was quite clear that expectations related to a broader spectrum of issues, able to influence the course of time. Right from the word go, Nissan’s zero emission car was able to anticipate the future requirements of eco-friendly passenger cars, which include respectable performance, sufficient mileage - albeit limited - to make it practical for daily activities and, in some cases, even the occasional trip out-of-town, affordable and truly global, although this would largely depend on the development of a global network of fast charging stations, the only realistic way to extend the use of any electric vehicle. Vital concepts for a truly sustainable mobility, one that is moving all car makers (with Japanese producers leading the way) to consider the environment as a top priority.

Nissan’s Leaf, however, is much more than that: Nissan’s electric concept, equipped with V2G technology (Vehicle to Grid) is also a tool for storing, transporting and exchanging energy through the network or even between vehicles, creating a subnet that constitutes a connected mobile infrastructure.

 

Friendly family car

Leading – Environmentally friendly – Affordable – Family car. This is what is hidden behind the acronym Leaf, which encapsulates the future of mobility. We are not talking about a distant future here, in fact,  looking at the Leaf’s sales volumes in the last few years, we discover that 300,000 units have been delivered since it was first launch (more than 85,000 only in Europe), making it the top selling electric vehicle ever.

Who said that alternative cars must necessarily be ugly? Although at first that rather eccentric oval shape seemed to be a distinctive sign of these vehicles, and the Leaf was no exception, Nissan’s latest effort is much more in line with the aesthetic standards of traditional cars, with an appealing sporty design. Immediately recognizable thanks to its "V motion" grid found on most Nissans, the new Leaf can count on full led bidirectional headlights, sharp edges with high side-doors seamlessly connected to rear end of the car with its innovative rear spoiler framing the tailgate and underlining its dynamic looks. In short, little suggests the nature of the power-unit, were it not for the absence of exhaust terminals and the electric buzz once the vehicle starts moving, exceeded only by the noise produced by the rolling tires.

Despite the new design, externally the dimensions are similar to the first series, with just a few centimetres having been added in length, now at 4.48 metres, while width, 1.79 metres, height, 1.54 metres and wheelbase, 2.7 metres, are basically the same as the previous version. While externally very little has changed in terms of volumes, internally the Leaf benefits from a larger boot now 435 litres without a spare wheel.

Even the interior design gives no evidence of the nature of the vehicle, relying on a modern yet simple design with user-friendly commands activating all the electronic functions used as drive assist systems. The gear lever has been replaced by a drive selector positioned between the front seats which manages all the usual park, drive and reverse settings, while the dashboard houses a multi-function 7” TFT touch-screen which includes a navigation system and multimedia functions, and allows, with the touch of a finger, to manage energy consumption, charging as well as locating the nearest charging stations. All information accessible from a smartphone via a dedicated App, able to program pre-heating or air conditioning functions to create the perfect temperature before the driver climbs on board.

 

All-round automation

Although the new Leaf could hardly be summarized with its power unit, the version with the 110 kW (or 150 hp) electric unit and 320 Nm of torque, improved power output and efficiency, happens to be, without a doubt, the most appealing. Obtained through the inverter's liquid cooling and fine tuning, these results represent a real leap forward when compared to the 109 hp of the first version, pending a further engine upgrade with a new power unit expected sometime during 2019. The lithium-ion battery pack is now able to guarantee a total of 40 kWh, despite the same size of the previous 30 kWh, thanks to a different chemical composition and single-cell structure, with a 67% increase in energy density. Which means a declared mileage – rather optimistic according to the New EuropeanDrivingCycle - of 378 km, more likely around 300 km depending on the type of route and driving style, but also 16 hours for a complete recharge from a domestic electrical outlet, or 40 minutes of patient waiting at a fast recharging station to get 80% of the energy needed to continue the journey.

No lack here of drive assist systems, with advanced technologies such as Pro-Pilot, able to keep the vehicle on the road and automatically control the distance from the vehicle ahead and brake in case of emergency. In addition, the Pro-Pilot Park system, uses 12 sonar and 4 cameras not only to park the vehicle automatically, but also to identify road signs and obstacles on the route. With the Nissan e-Pedal, you can accelerate and decelerate with a single, seamless movement. And if you ever need a more immediate stop there’s still a familiar brake pedal.

The pervasive electronic technology is supported by a traditional mechanical structure with independent front suspensions and torsion beam rear suspension, double anti-roll bar, disc brakes and power-steering, on a platform designed to have the battery pack in a central position thus favouring the best weight distribution.

On the performance side of things, while maximum speed stands at 144 km/h with a surplus of power always available when overtaking, the Leaf is able to go from 0 to 100 in 7.9 seconds, a rather appreciable result common to electric motors, able to deliver all the available torque immediately. Scheduled for next year, an upgraded version, with a 218 hp motor, powered by a 60 kWh reinforced battery pack.

OEM equipment includes 205/55 and 215/50 radial tires on 16 or 17 inch wheels, in line with most vehicle running on our roads, confirming that the performance gap (not to mention the weight) is edging closer to the more traditional cars.

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