2017 Nissan Leaf
Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn today confirmed that a second-generation Nissan Leaf electric car is coming "in the near future," though he didn't specify a date or model year.
The new Leaf will come with Nissan's ProPilot technology, which permits the car to drive itself autonomously within a highway under certain circumstances.
Ghosn noted that more than 250,000 Leafs have been sold globally since its December 2010 launch, making it by far the world's highest-volume electric car.
Those Leafs collectively have covered more than 3 billion kilometers (1.8 billion miles) of travel.
Ghosn noted that emissions of almost half a million tons of carbon dioxide had been averted in the process.
The company is now diversifying its electric powertrains, he underscored, with "multiple fuel and energy sources to meet different market and customer needs."
Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show
This includes two projects outside North America, each using electric drive derived from that in the Leaf.
The first is the Nissan Note e-Power, a series-hybrid version of the Note subcompact hatchback whose wheels are powered solely by an electric motor fed by a small hybrid-sized battery pack (without a plug for recharging).
That pack is recharged by a small combustion engine that does not power the wheels—meaning the e-Note gets the fuel economy of an efficient hybrid car, but drives like an electric car—including one-pedal operation.
Nissan's CEO noted that the Note lineup was the best-selling vehicle in Japan in November, just months after its launch, with the e-Power version representing more than half of those sales.
The other electric-drive vehicle was the prototype e-bio fuel-cell SUV shown in Brazil, which turns ethanol—in theory a carbon-neutral fuel—into hydrogen that powers a fuel cell to produce electricity to run the car's electric motor.
In his presentation, a keynote at the massive Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Ghosn also discussed Nissan's second-use efforts for battery packs, its vehicle-to-grid technologies, and other parts of the energy ecosystem.
Nissan Note e-Power hybrid
A few further snippets on the next Leaf came from a question-and answer session earlier in the day with Takao Asami, a Nissan senior vice president of research and advanced engineering.
He noted that figuring out the battery capacity and range of an electric car required trading off the latest technology with the cost and business case of the resulting car.
Asked directly about GM's statement that it was paying only $145 per kilowatt-hour for the LG Chem cells in its 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, Asami said that figure "would not surprise me at all."
And, he added with a smile, GM "probably has some safety margin" on that figure as well.
Asami confirmed that at least one version of the next Leaf would have a range "at or above 200 miles," though he said the company was debating whether different ranges might be required for North America, Europe, and Asia.
He suggested that some segments and uses would require larger batteries and higher ranges, specifically naming taxi duty as one where even an hour or two of charging would be an impediment to the car's intended use.
2017 Nissan Leaf
And he echoed earlier comments by Nissan executives that for heavier electrified vehicles, the cost equation made far more sense with a smaller battery pack and some form of range extender.
He expected that electric cars would be competitive in total cost of ownership with internal-combustion vehicles within 10 years, though potentially purchase prices would still be higher.
Finally, Asami noted that the company was preparing for DC fast-charging at rates up to 150 kilowatts, though he questioned the practicality of higher rates for mass-market electric cars.
And he confirmed that the next Leaf would continue with an air-cooled battery pack, saying changes in cell chemistry had "significantly reduced" concerns over battery durability.
"I am not concerned any more" about the durability of electric-car batteries, he concluded.
Nissan provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person report.