2018 Nissan Leaf

Does the 2018 Nissan Leaf do enough to remain competitive?

The time is finally here and the 2018 Nissan Leaf has finally been revealed to all of us with its specs and the rumors and gossip is now in the past. Now the question that remains is: Has Nissan done enough to remain competitive in the growing EV hatchback market?

Here are some of the basics and specs of the 2018 Nissan Leaf.

The compact five-door's 40-kilowatt-hour battery is projected to get a 150-mile combined U.S. range rating, Nissan says, and the starting price is $30,875 including delivery. In Japan, the new Leaf will go on sale on October 2nd. However, here in the US, we won’t see it until “early” 2018. In 2019, Nissan Leaf range will gain a second battery option, a larger 60-kwh pack, according to Nissan executives during a technical briefing held in Japan in June.

That should give the second model a range of 200 miles or more, and it will also offer higher power, Nissan said, at a higher price. The company provided no further details. The 2018 Leaf has upped it’s power a power in the base model as well. It's rated at a maximum output of 110 kilowatts (147 horsepower) and 236 pound-feet of torque. Comparable figures for the 2017 Leaf are 80 kw (107 hp), and 187 lb-ft. The onboard charger remains at 6.6 kw, with CHAdeMO DC fast charging available. Nissan says the 40-kwh battery takes 16 hours for a full recharge using conventional 120-volt household current, and 8 hours using a 240-volt Level 2 charging station. Fast charging to 80 percent takes about 40 minutes.

Blending In

Arguably, the biggest change is the styling of the car. No longer is it obviously an electric car. Nissan has clearly modified the styling to match the rest of it’s lineup. Inside the 2018 Leaf electric car, Nissan has provided a new interior design that's both more conventional and more pleasant, aiming for what it calls a "relaxed ambience and premium ... feel." The interior has also been redesigned which includes a 7.0 inch touch screen with Android Auto & Apple CarPlay standard.

2018 Nissan Leaf Dashboard

The 2018 Nissan Leaf also comes standard with what Nissan calls "e-Pedal," which allows the driver to select a mode that increases regenerative braking and permits what experienced EV drivers call "one-pedal driving." The 2017 Chevy Bolt has a very similar feature as well as a regen paddle behind the steering wheel which allows you to adjust the level of regenerative braking. The 2018 Leaf also gets to be the first car in Nissan’s lineup to get their ProPilot Assist feature. It combines adaptive cruise control with lane centering for single–lane highway driving. Drivers have to keep their hands on the steering wheel, but it reduces the need to make slight corrections when lane markings are suitable visible on the road surface.

One notable exemption from the feature list is telescoping steering wheel. That fact also leads you to the fact that the 2018 Leaf is not a complete redesign, but uses the same underpinnings as the 2017 model. The final clue lies in the fact that the 40-kwh battery pack is identical in form factor—fundamentally interchangeable, it sounded like—to the 30-kwh pack of the 2017 Leaf, retaining that car's passive air cooling.

Its cells come from AESC, too, the joint venture between Nissan and NEC that the automaker has agreed to sell to a Chinese private-equity firm.

Nissan Leaf 200 mile range option

And that's where things get interesting, because the development engineers said in July that next year's longer-range Leaf would come from a 60-kwh pack. With a more conventional exterior and a softer interior feel plus a gigher battery range, the 2018 Leaf is carving out a new niche in the EV market. The 40-kwh rating doesn't get it above 200 miles, obviously; that will have to wait a year for the higher-end 2019 model.

But 150 miles is higher than any other electric car that isn't a Tesla or a Bolt EV, including the 2017 champs (below 200 miles): the 125-mile Volkswagen e-Golf and the 124-mile Hyundai Ioniq Electric.

How electric-car buyers react to a car with less than 200 miles of range, at a price almost $7,000 lower than the 238-mile Bolt EV, promises to be a fascinating market test that will be eagerly watched. What do you think? Will the 2018 Leaf be able to find a market in the increasing competitive EV marketplace?

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