During a laser-lit carnivallike debut for the Leaf here last week, simultaneous with its U.S. unveiling in Las Vegas, Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said the 2019 version will have enough juice to make range anxiety a thing of the past — an especially critical consideration in the U.S. where longer drives are common.
He said afterward that the 2019 version would cruise more than 300 miles. But he did not specify which testing cycle he was referring to. Japan's testing regime is more lenient than the EPA test used in the U.S., resulting in more generous Japanese range ratings. A Nissan source later said the bigger battery wouldn't reach 300 miles under the EPA testing but that it could deliver that kind of extended range in real-life driving.
Daniele Schillaci, executive vice president for zero emissions as well as global marketing and sales, would only clarify that the 2019 version will exceed 225 miles under EPA ratings.
That would put the driving range of the second-generation Leaf on a par with its closest U.S. rivals, the Tesla Model 3 and the Chevrolet Bolt EV. The Model 3 delivers 220 miles, the Bolt EV 238.
Nissan's pitch for the new Leaf doesn't rest on EV specs alone.
The Leaf also counters with a new technology punch. It gets an updated edition of Nissan's ProPilot Assist autonomous driving features, as well as a new e-Pedal technology that turns one pedal into a combined accelerator-brake.
Nissan's e-Pedal allows one-pedal driving. When the feature is engaged, a driver presses the accelerator pedal to speed up, and lifts off the pedal to slow down. The car even comes to stop when needed.
Nissan says the autonomous feature can be useful in 90 percent of a driver's needs, alleviating the stress of shifting back and forth between the brake and accelerator pedals, especially in heavy stop-and-go traffic.
The new Leaf also promises peppier pickup.
The first improvement will move to a 40 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery, from a 30 kWh one in the outgoing model. Maximum motor output climbs to 110 kilowatts, from 80 kW now, while top torque increases 26 percent. The 2019 performance version will get a 60 kWh battery.
The batteries will continue to be made by Automotive Energy Supply Corp., the battery subsidiary Nissan said last month it will sell to Chinese private investment group GSR Capital.
The next Leaf adds only about 100 pounds of extra weight. It rides on the same platform as the outgoing Leaf but gets a new chassis to better negotiate the extra power output.
Given the updates, Saikawa predicted global sales of the new Leaf should be at least double those of the outgoing model, and maybe triple. Nissan sold 47,000 Leafs worldwide last year, doubling would take sales to at least 94,000, while tripling to nearly 150,000 sales.
The Japanese and European versions of the upcoming Leaf also get a new push-button self-parking function. Nissan says ProPilot Park will allow the Leaf to self-park in parallel, angled, front-in and straight back-in spots by taking over the accelerator, braking and steering.
Chief Planning Officer Philippe Klein said American drivers should expect the technology down the road.
Naoto Okamura contributed to this report.