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Nissan Cuts Price, Extends Range on Revamped Leaf

Executive Summary

The strategy positions the EV several thousand dollars below the Chevrolet Bolt, but the new model still falls short of the General Motors car’s 200-plus mile range.

TOKYO – Nissan gets aggressive in pricing its revamped Leaf electric vehicle, cutting base stickers $690 despite added driving range, more power and other enhancements.

With the reduction, the Leaf now will enter U.S. showrooms later this year at $29,990 before any tax incentives, keeping it well below the Chevrolet Bolt’s $37,495 entry price without incentives.

The Leaf still falls well short of the Bolt’s 238-mile (383-km) driving range between charges, though the new model closes the gap with a range of 150 miles (241 km). That’s about 40% better than the current 30-kWh Leaf, rated at 107 miles (172 km), and Nissan believes it’s plenty of distance for most drivers.

Given driving patterns in Japan, the average Leaf owner won’t need to recharge more than once a week, the automaker says.

For buyers who are still concerned about range, Nissan will add a longer-distance model in 2019, though the automaker did not provide details prior to the new model’s unveiling here.

The new model also adds Nissan’s Pro-PILOT Assist and e-Pedal technologies. The Pro-PILOT traffic-assist feature combines adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist to steer, brake and accelerate the vehicle at speeds set from 18-62 mph (29-100 km/h). It will bring a vehicle to a complete stop in traffic and restart again automatically and keep the vehicle centered in the lane.

E-Pedal allows the driver to use the accelerator for both acceleration and braking, bypassing the brake pedal, similar to technology seen on some other electric vehicles, including the BMW i3, though the Leaf version will hold the brake at stops. Nissan says the e-Pedal can be used for about 90% of braking requirements.

Other technology on the new Leaf includes intelligent lane intervention, lane-departure warning, intelligent emergency braking, blindspot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and intelligent around-view monitor with moving-object detection. In Japan, the Leaf will be sold with park assist for automated parallel and lot parking.

The Leaf’s powertrain is significantly upgraded as well, delivering 147 hp, 38% more than the outgoing model and 236 lb.-ft. (320 Nm) of torque, a 26% hike.

Despite the increase in range for the base model, the 40-kWh battery does not grow dimensionally from that in the current car. The extra storage capacity comes from a 67% increase in the energy density of the battery’s lithium-ion cells and more-durable electrode materials, Nissan says. Charging time is 16 hours on a 110V line and eight hours with a 220V line. Quickcharging to 80% capacity takes 40 minutes.

The exterior design is much more mainstream and is said to signal where Nissan design is heading. Features include a wider stance, V-motion grille, LED headlamps and available two-tone paint scheme for the roof that reduces the car’s visual height for a more robust, sporty appearance.

Inside is a generous, flush-design infotainment screen and new gage package with 7-in. (18 cm) full-color TFT screen that includes readouts for critical safety systems.

Nissan has sold 113,282 Leafs in the U.S. since the 2010 introduction, according to WardsAuto data, accounting for 31.7% of EV sales over that span. Itt has sold more than 283,000 of the cars globally.

The automaker is coy about projecting sales, but says it will double, or possibly triple, volumes in Japan and says it plans to expand availability to 60 countries from 49 today. The new Leaf goes on sale in Japan in October and will hit U.S. and European markets in early 2018.

dzoia@wardsauto.com @DavidZoia

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