Next Nissan Leaf: ProPilot self-driving included, 200-mile range or more confirmed

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2017 Nissan Leaf

2017 Nissan Leaf

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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.

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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

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show

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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.

ALSO SEE: Nissan e-Power series hybrid builds on electric-car expertise

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

Nissan Note e-Power hybrid

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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."

CHECK OUT: Electric-car battery costs: Tesla $190 per kwh for pack, GM $145 for cells

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.

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