Photo by Eric Gandarilla.
Nissan showcased its newly redesigned battery-electric Leaf at a ride-and-drive event in the Napa Valley region of California in December. The 2018 model year features a new look and a performance boost.
Automotive Fleet was among the publications invited, and the impression that Nissan’s all-electric vehicle left after a day of driving through the Napa Valley was overall positive. The enhancements for 2018, along with a low entry price, make this car a real contender for companies looking for an all-electric vehicle for their fleets.
The 2018 Nissan Leaf comes in three trims, including S, SV, and SL. S, the lowest trim, starts at $29,990; the SV starts at $32,490; and the SL starts at $36,200. All of these prices are lower than their respective trims from the previous model year and places the 2018-MY Nissan Leaf at about the mid-point in terms of pricing compared to all-electric vehicles offered by other OEMs.
With a number of companies — including LeasePlan, Unilever, and Ikea —pledging to electrify their fleets by 2030 as part of the EV100 Initiative, procurement costs are bound to be determining factors when selecting vehicles for their fleets. Nissan Leaf’s low price point will help in that regard.
Additionally, a program that Nissan is in the early stages of will allow companies to power their buildings with their Leafs. The idea behind this program is that companies would charge their fleet of Leafs during off-peak hours when rates are lower and then use the vehicles to return power back to the buildings at hours when electricity rates are much higher. From initial research, this has the potential to save companies a noticeable amount of money, according to Nissan. Depending on the savings, fleets could factor in the money saved through this program into the Nissan’s total cost of ownership.
Along with a price reduction, the new model-year Leaf has also seen a boost in performance. The new model-year’s 147 hp and 236 lb.-ft. of torque are 37% and 26% respective improvements from the previous model-year.
The 2018 model’s range of 150 miles is also a sizeable improvement from the 2017’s range of 107 miles.
One of the new additions to the 2018 Leaf is e-Pedal, a one-pedal driving mode. The vehicle has this feature off by default for those that would prefer to drive as they normally would in a traditional car, but for those that are interested, turning e-Pedal on is done through a switch on the center console.
One-pedal driving isn't a new feature, other electric cars have also featured the driving method but it's exactly as it sounds: the Leaf can be operated with only one pedal. Stepping on the pedal will move the car forward and stepping off the pedal will begin to decelerate the car; the brake isn't needed because deceleration is done when pressure is relieved off the gas.
Lightly taking the foot off the pedal will result in a slow deceleration while completely stepping off the pedal will bring the car to a halt. When at a complete stop, there’s no need to keep your foot on the brake as the car applies the brake when the driver’s foot is off the pedal. Nissan states that the car will stay in place without any pressure on the brake at a slope up to 30% grade when in e-Pedal mode.
It takes a little bit of time to get used to, but once you do it begins to feel natural. Nissan recommended turning e-Pedal on during the winding roads of Napa Valley and it ended up working pretty well. All that the tight turns required was relieving a little bit of pressure off of the gas to replicate the same effect that applying the brakes would normally do.
An optional technology equipment package available on the SV trim and that comes standard with the SL trim brings one more new feature to the 2018 Leaf: ProPilot Assist. This new feature brings level II autonomy to the Leaf. It requires the driver to keep his or hands on the wheel but as long as that requirement is met, the vehicle will self-correct itself while on the road, preventing itself from veering from its lane and maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front of it. If the driver takes his or hand off the wheel, however, the car will begin to beep until the driver returns his or her hands to the wheel, eventually coming to a complete stop if enough time transpires.