By launching the new-second-generation Nissan Leaf technology "standard bearer" in Australia during 2018, the company aims to reclaim its status as an electric car pioneer and innovator.
This comes after the company has clearly fallen behind the likes of Tesla - plus the major German luxury brands - in the public opinion stakes. Despite long reigning as the world's most popular EV, the outgoing Leaf is no longer as synonymous with emissions-free vehicles as it once was.
Since the original Leaf was put into production in 2010, the company has sold more than 260,000 worldwide.
As we know, the all-new Leaf will premiere on September 6, bringing to the table a range of halo technologies and a greatly improved driving range. The company has learned many lessons and we're expecting big things.
"We’ll certainly be active with Leaf next year," Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Richard Emery told us, adding that an Australian date-of-arrival remained contingent on the production schedule.
"It's important on a number of different fronts. Yes, we were a little bit of a pioneer with Leaf a while ago now.
"Of course we could look back and say Australians really haven't adopted EVs at the level of perhaps some other markets around the world, and there's all sorts of reasons for that, whether it be government support, commitment of companies and government in terms of their fleet from a CO2 perspective...
"But certainly we see it as a long-term strategy for the business overall, and it's important for Australia as a mature, sophisticated market that we play our role in the global rollout - even if in the short-term from a pure business case perspective it's a bit marginal.
"We’ve probably lost some impetus and focus, and to some extent that vacuum created has been perhaps filled by another brand. We want to re-stake our claim to being an innovator and pioneer in this space."
Emery has long slammed government here for its lack of support for EV charging infrastructure and buyer incentives - things many countries have supported, and seen flourish. He's also not alone, with a wide range of car-makers taking a similar stance here, including BMW and Renault.
Electric car sales remain almost nowhere in Australia, with the BMW i3, and the Tesla Model S and Model X, carrying the load.
However, we'll likely soon see a wider range of BEVs on offer from the likes of VW and Hyundai, and Nissan will be in the thick of it - even if it's not making much money. The company needs the image fillip, and understands the importance of branding and positioning.
2018 Nissan Leaf, what we know:
An e-Pedal function is activated with the flip of a switch. Acceleration is achieved by pressing the pedal, deceleration requires lifting off the pedal gradually, while lifting off the pedal completely will see the Leaf come to a complete stop. This is BMW i3-like heavy regenerative braking.
We understand the second-generation electric hatch will have an upgraded battery pack, which will be capable of between 300 and 400 kilometres of driving range on a full charge. The current car, which is no longer listed on Nissan Australia’s website, has a US EPA approved range of 135km with the standard 24kWh battery and 172km with the larger 30kWh option, which was never offered locally.
On the technology front, the Leaf is expected to be equipped with the company’s first-generation ProPilot autonomous driving system, which could potentially allow the car to steer, brake and accelerate for itself within a single highway lane.
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