The Nissan Leaf may have been the first modern mass-market all-electric car, but seven years after its debut, the Leaf is getting long in the tooth. Among other things, its 107-mile range is no longer enough to compete with newer electric cars like the Chevrolet Bolt EV and upcoming Tesla Model 3.
A new Leaf will be unveiled in September, and it's expected to have a much longer range than the current model. But in a recent interview with Nikkei Automotive, Kazuo Yajima, global director of electric car and hybrid development for the Renault-Nissan Alliance, gave an indication of exactly how much extra range buyers can expect.
Yajima said that when the next-generation Leaf debuts later this year, it will have a range of between 350 and 400 kilometers (217 to 248 miles). He also said that Nissan is planning a second electric for 2020 that will have a range of 550 km (341 mi).
Keep in mind that all of these figures are based on the Japanese JC08 testing cycle, which is a bit more optimistic than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's tests. The current Leaf can go 107 miles on a charge according to the EPA, but it's rated at 280 km (about 174 miles) in Japan. Still, the next-gen Leaf could very well surpass 200 miles of range on the EPA cycle, and Nissan's unnamed 2020 electric car could top 300 miles.
In 2015, Nissan unveiled a prototype 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack in the IDS concept at the Tokyo Motor Show. That's twice the size of the 30-kWh pack that is now standard in all Leaf trim levels, and the same size the Chevrolet Bolt EV uses to achieve its EPA-rated 238-mile range.
Nissan will likely need to achieve at least 200 miles of range in order for the Leaf to stay competitive. With base prices under $40,000, both the Bolt EV and the Tesla Model 3 are right in the Leaf's price range. More broadly, electric cars will need to achieve similar ranges at gasoline cars without a substantial price premium in order to be truly accepted by consumers. Nissan led the first wave of modern electric cars—but right now, it's playing catchup.