Nissan is hoping that a midcycle update of its Leaf electric vehicle that extends its driving range will help turn around sales, according to an insider. It’s likely that the improvements will arrive as early as August. To increase the range, the automaker intends to make the lithium ion battery of the Leaf absorb more energy. It will still have the same size as the existing 24-kilowatt-hour power pack but it will produce 30 kwh.
At the annual shareholders meeting last June 23, CEO Carlos Ghosn gave an outline of what will happen to the EV. He shared that in the “near future,” the battery will be made lighter, more affordable, and thinner. As a result, the driving ranges of the EVs will be comparable to that of gasoline vehicles. The automaker has to achieve a breakthrough in battery technology if it has any hope of overcoming poor sales.
It also has to be able to reduce range anxiety among potential customers, who are wary about being stranded because of a drained battery. The Leaf was launched in 2010. Its product plans include autonomous driving and zero-emission innovations. From January to May this year, Leaf sales in the U.S. have fallen by 25% with only 7,742 vehicles delivered.
Demand was affected partly due to the end of different tax credits for EVs as well as by a batch of Leafs that are about to come off lease at a lower value. Ghosn gave assurances to its shareholders that the brand intends to stay ahead when it comes to EV technology. Ghosn presented a Leaf that featured a prototype next-generation electric drivetrain on stage.
This technology is in the development and testing phase but it’s expected to offer a range of over 500 kilometers or 310 miles. Ghosn explained that the next-generation battery will remove range anxiety by allowing people to complete their drive for the day and get back home with enough charge.
In a video simulation, the car is seen being charged to deliver a range of over 310 miles and returning home with a reserve range of 160 miles. But there will be an interim upgrade for the Leaf before the next-generation arrives at the market. It’s likely that the new 30 kwh battery will come in August.
On a full charge, this battery can attain an EPA rating of around 125 miles. The existing battery has a range of 84 miles. The source said that in actual driving use, the range would be around 105 to 110 miles.
Nissan Chief Competitive Officer Hiroto Saikawa admitted that Leaf sales have not met initial predictions but he is confident that demand will surge within the next five years.