The Nissan Leaf has been a fading light in the electric car market, but after a few years in the dark, it will soon get a chance to shine once more.
Despite a battery capacity increase in 2016 and a quarter of a million in sales since its 2010 launch, the Leaf has been in dire need of a proper trip back to the drawing board.
Especially in recent years, with the increasing number of competitors on the market, the Leaf has somewhat fallen out of the public eye.
This September, that will change when the Renault Nissan Alliance unveils the long-awaited second-generation Leaf.
A recent article in industry trade journal Automotive News included some details about the alliance's ambitious longer-term plans for plug-in electric vehicles.
For 2018, the Renault-Nissan group plans on increasing the Leaf's electric range to keep up with its competitors.
Section of 2018 Nissan Leaf spy shot [image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien, as used on Motor Authority]
Considering models such as the 238-mile Chevrolet Bolt EV and even the new 124-mile Hyundai Ioniq Electric have more range than the world's best-selling electric car, the expectations are high.
It has been hinted that an electric range between 200 and 250 miles could be expected from the new Leaf.
Nissan Motor CEO Hiroto Saikawa said that by 2020, the company would even be able to reach the 300 mile-range.
He, however, did not specify whether such an upgrade would be applied to the mass-market Leaf.
But that is only one of the two issues Saikawa plans on tackling. Mitsubishi is the second one.
The struggling brand had an aging lineup and declining sales even before it was slammed with a highly public scandal over cheating on Japanese emission and fuel-economy tests for many years.
2017 Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid
That scandal led directly to the purchase of a 34-percent stake in Mitsubishi Motors by the Renault Nissan Alliance.
In return, Nissan will benefit from Mitsubishi's expertise in plug-in hybrid technology.
The Outlander plug-in hybrid has been a big success, having sold over 100,000 units in Europe and Asia.
The resulting three-way alliance will also let Mitsubishi benefit from the group’s technology and a shared compact electric car platform that could eventually underlie both the Nissan Leaf and the Renault Zoe.
Executives said that mentoring and the exchange of technologies will, for now, be the extent of the companies’ collaboration.
Indeed, that's the way Renault and Nissan started out, taking several years to begin sharing engines, vehicle platforms, and combined purchasing.
2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV Quick Drive - Portland OR - July 2015 [photo: Doug Berger]
As for electric cars, could the tiny, aged, and mediocre Mitsubishi i-MiEV get a second wind thanks to Nissan’s input?
Time will tell, but for now, Renault-Nissan and Mitsubishi are moving forward and looking toward a combined future in which, collectively, they make up one of the world's four largest car companies.
— Sabrina Giacomini