The New 2016 LEAF Unveiled, With Improved Range
The new 2016 Nissan LEAF

The new 2016 Nissan LEAF

Nissan finally introduced the new 2016 all-electric LEAF, and as expected, battery range will increase. With advances in battery technology and declining costs, the SV and SL versions will come with a 30 kWh battery, up from the current 24kwh version.  The bigger battery will give the LEAF 107 miles of range, up from its current 84 miles, plus an 8 year/100,000 mile battery warranty.

Inside EVs has the scoop on what this means for consumers:

As for pricing, the base Nissan LEAF (S) remains unchanged at $29,010, while the extra 23 miles found in the SV and SL trims see the prices increase anywhere from $1,600 (SL) to $2,100 (SV – which now comes with standard quick charging).

After the federal government’s incentive is factored in, a 107 mile LEAF will set you back at least $26,700 before any dealer or state-level incentives are applied.

Meanwhile, Nissan has made strides on battery technology:

The 30 kWh battery resides in the same battery space under the LEAF as the existing 24 kWh pack, and weighs just 46 pounds (21 kg)more.

“Improved electrode material with revised chemistry results in higher power density and enhanced battery durability upon charge and discharge.”

Basically, the introduction of Carbon, Nitrogen and Magnesium to the electrodes improves performance of the cells, while Nissan adds the “change to the cell layout also contributes to the gain“, although we aren’t quite sure how.

As evidence of a growing confidence in the 30 kWh battery’s cell chemistry (and the fact it will now take less battery cycles to go further), Nissan warrants battery loss below 9 bars of capacity (70%), for the first 8 years or 100,000 miles (160,000 km) in the US and in Europe. The warranty on the S trim stays consistent with that of the 2015 LEAF, at 5 years or 60,000 miles.

It’s encouraging to see this progress, and the extra 20 mile range could make a difference for some consumers.  Personally, however, I don’t think the extra 20 miles would make much of a difference for me, and I probably wouldn’t pay a few thousand dollars for it.

An extra 40 miles though would have really helped.  Many of the longer trips I take are of the one hour, 60-mile variety, and I suspect I’m not alone.  Even with a 107-mile range, I’ll still need to charge to get back home.  So I’m right back where I was with 84-mile range.

Ultimately, car companies need to improve range enough to make a charging stop unnecessary for intermediate trips, and I’m not sure Nissan did that with this version for most people.  120 miles is a nice target, allowing not just a charge-free roundtrip to 60 miles away but also enabling a 240-mile trip with only one stop-off to charge.

It’s been almost five years now since the first LEAF came out, and we’ve got an extra 20 miles and falling costs now, plus strong evidence that battery technology is improving, albeit incrementally.  It will take some time, but eventually we’ll get to that magic 200-mile range and $35,000 cost. And when that happens, EVs will greatly expand their market share.


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