2015 Nissan LeafEnlarge Photo
What will the next-generation 2018 Nissan Leaf electric car look like?
No actual photos, or even teasers, have yet been released.
Despite that, we're gradually getting a better picture: It'll still be a five-door hatchback, and it'll still be around the same size. But expect its 'EVness' to be dialed back several notches.
The latter is one of the key points emphasized by Nissan design chief and senior vice president Shiro Nakamura, as part of an interview this past week at the Paris Auto Show.
Early adopters of the Leaf, Nakamura explained, want to show that they have an electric car, and that they're driving something special and environmentally friendly.
2015 Nissan LeafEnlarge Photo
But as Nissan moves to expand the Leaf's appeal, that's not so much the case.
As we've noted, the current Nissan Leaf can be quite polarizing from a styling and design standpoint—somewhat like the iconic 2004 Toyota Prius—with some people liking the statement and others wishing they were in a somewhat more 'normal-looking' car.
Outside: Less EV oddity, more universal appeal
“Now we are aiming for a bigger number of customers, and they are not looking for as much 'EVness,'” Nakamura explained. “Some people say [of the current car], oh, this is too unique...we are covering a much broader range of people now.”
Excerpt of rendering by Auto Express of possible design for 2017 Nissan Leaf electric carEnlarge Photo
That's the challenge looking ahead to the next-generation model: One group is still looking for a standout design that signifies "electric car," while the other just wants an attractive car with an all-electric powertrain.
Nakamura said that to expand the Leaf's appeal to more of a EV-adopting mainstream market, it requires designing a nice-looking car, then adding more 'spice' in the design for the people who want it—rather than starting with specific design traits that call it out as an EV.
This doesn't necessarily mean becoming more conservative, the design chief said. Instead, it will be a very stable, nicely-proportioned car first, with special lamps, gauges, or trim that accent the 'EVness'—but only for those who want it.
More comfort inside (for longer range)
As for the interior, the Leaf was originally designed to be more of a city car, Nakamura said.
“But now, we'll be expanding the range; so that means it has to be more of a long-distance car.”
2015 Nissan Leaf 4-door HB SL DashboardEnlarge Photo
That will bring more comfort and a wider range of interior appointments, with a more premium cabin at the top of the model line, along with more trim levels and features that ramp up the style and showcase new technology.
“But the base model will stay a base," Nakamura explained. "Because some people are just looking for basic transportation—nothing extra—and some people want to have an EV simply as a unique, innovative car."
“It's going to be very nice looking—we're already starting on the redesign,” he added.
New battery chemistry, multiple ranges
Outside of design, Nakamura confirmed much of what we've already reported.
Lithium-ion battery pack of 2011 Nissan Leaf, showing cells assembled into modules
The 2017 Nissan Leaf will be built on an improved platform, and it will offer a higher-output battery and a longer range than the current model's EPA-rated 84 miles.
He also verified that the automaker is still "considering" multiple battery capacities.
And that's with what former executive vice president Andy Palmer called the "game-changing technology" in battery chemistry that will debut in the new car.
Overall, the next-generation Leaf will most definitely offer buyers a lot more choice—with a base model, luxurious models, and at least one that allows you to revel in 'EVness.'