LAS VEGAS -- As automakers begin rolling out close to 20 new electric vehicles in 2019, Nissan will introduce a new powertrain option on the Leaf EV that will boost its range by 40 percent.
The Leaf e+ comes with a 62-kilowatt-hour battery pack and will get an EPA-estimated range of 226 miles, about 40 percent more than current Leaf cars. The powertrain option will be sold in the U.S. and Canada under the Leaf Plus series, with each trim level receiving its own designation of S Plus, SV Plus and SL Plus. Pricing was not announced, but the car is expected to reach U.S. dealers in the spring.
"Customers now have a selection of powertrains and models to best suit their driving needs," Denis Le Vot, senior vice president and chairman, Nissan North America, said in a statement.
Despite falling gas prices, U.S. sales of EVs are growing. In 2018, battery-electric vehicle sales rose 199 percent, according to the Automotive News Data Center, although not every battery-electric sold is included in that tally. The surge was based in large part off the popularity of the Tesla Model 3, with an estimated 138,000 U.S. sales for the year.
Leaf sales were up 31 percent for 2018, hitting 14,715. The Leaf was redesigned for the 2018 model year and has a range of about 150 miles.
The Leaf e+ powertrain comes with promises of faster charging. Nissan said that with its new 70-kilowatt Quick Charging system, owners should expect to charge their vehicles in the same amount of time as current Leaf owners, despite having a 55 percent larger battery storage capacity.
The high-capacity battery combined with a 160-kW motor in the Leaf e+ should result in quicker acceleration at high speeds, Nissan says. Accelerating from 50 to 75 mph will be 13 percent faster, allowing Leaf e+ drivers to feel more confident when passing cars on the highway.
The battery is almost the same size as that of the original Leaf, Nissan says. Other than a 5 mm increase in height, the car's dimensions are unchanged.
It will come equipped with advanced technologies including the ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous driving system and e-Pedal mode for one-pedal driving.
"Nissan Intelligent Mobility is at the core of everything we do and the new Nissan LEAF e+ takes this vision even further," Le Vot said. "EVs will play a significant part in our product lineup as we move forward and will lead the way to providing an efficient and sustainable future for the world."