Rivals are queueing up to take the crown
Nissan’s global EV program director is confident the second-generation Leaf will retain its predecessor’s mantle as the global electric sales king, despite the spectre of a tougher competitor set.
Speaking at the Nissan Futures conference in Singapore this week, Nicholas Thomas said he wasn't concerned about competition, and snuck a cheeky dig at high-profile electric-vehicle maker Tesla for good measure.
“We’ve sold more than 350,000 [electric] cars around the world,” he said. “We are the leading electric vehicle manufacturer around the world – we’ve sold more than anybody else.
“The Nissan Leaf is already the world’s best-selling electric vehicle and now with this new version we’re introducing, we’re very, very confident that we are going to continue that position and keep going with a fantastic product.”
Nissan has sold about 300,000 Leafs and 50,000 e-NV200 electric vans since 2010, with customers accumulating a claimed 3.9 billion kilometres without any recorded instances of catastrophic battery failure.
The Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance is plotting 12 EV by 2022, sitting on a brand new group platform. Concepts like the IMx show what we can expect.
But competition is about to heat up, with a growing number of mass-market brands leaping headlong into the electric arms race.
General Motors wants to have 20 battery-electrics by 2023, while Volkswagen will lob the $35,000 I.D in 2020 and plans three million EV sales by 2025 across its group.
MORE: EV roadmap: How the big brands will deliver electric vehicles in the years ahead
Of course, the highest-profile player in this space is probably Tesla, thanks to publicity machine Elon Musk.
The Californian company took more than 500,000 refundable deposits on the Model 3, but is enduring what it calls “production hell” trying to scale up.
Nissan, with some bravado, was asked directly if these numbers — should they materialise — would oust the Leaf.
“I’m convinced I can build and sell those [Leafs] very quickly,” Thomas replied.
“We are delivering cars to customers in Japan, we are delivering cars to customers in Europe, we are just about to begin delivering cars to customers in the US, Canada, the rest of the region as we’ve announced.
“Am I worried about the competition? No, not at all.”
The 2018 Nissan Leaf has a 40kWh battery array that is 67 per cent bigger than its predecessor’s, giving it a 400km combined-cycle range in lab testing, equating to what the company says is about 270km in the real world.
In the coming years it’ll ramp this up to match Volkswagen’s 600km I.D, when the cost of denser batteries come down.
Buyers will arrive at a full charge in 16 hours using a 3kW connection, or eight hours with a more powerful 6kW point. Quick-charging capability will get your energy reserves to 80 per cent in 40 minutes, if you have access to public charge points.
The new drivetrain makes power of 110kW and instant torque rated as 320Nm, up 38 per cent and 26 per cent respectively, cutting the claimed 0-100km/h time to 8.0 seconds. The kerb weight is about 1500kg, roughly 200kg heavier than an equivalent-size internal-combustion car like a Mazda 3.
How does this compare to Australia’s favourite EV, the BMW i3 94Ah? The carbon-fibre Bimmer is about 200kg lighter, its 125kW/250Nm motor helps it dash to 100km/h about 0.7sec faster, and it tops up to 80 per cent on a fast-charger in 39 minutes. Its 33kWh battery gives an inferior range of about 300km on the European cycle.
The 2018 Nissan Leaf will arrive in Australia at the end of this year, priced at around $45,000-$50,000.
MORE: 2018 Nissan Leaf review