Longer range, lower price, more autonomy: these are just some of the rumors about tonight's launch.
Update: The new Leaf has now been launched—a more thorough rundown of what's new is available here.
I love my used Nissan Leaf, and in the two or so years I've been driving it, I've rarely had a real world issue with "range anxiety" or running out of juice to get home. That said, I've sometimes worried about it. (And others in my household have worried more.) And I have very occasionally had to trade cars with my wife when an out-of-town business trip looms.
So I'm intrigued to see what tonight's unveiling of the all new 2018 Nissan Leaf has in store for us and, more importantly, how the car market reacts.
I've already reported on rumors that the 2018 Leaf will come with a 40 kWh battery pack, suggesting a range somewhere in the region of 160 miles. Whether or not a version with a larger battery and more range—closer to the 200-300 mile ranges of the Tesla Model 3 and the Chevy Bolt—will also be immediately available is so far unclear.
But the rumor mill suggests a new Leaf at $5,000 less than the competition ($29,990 starting price for the base model), and a significant boost in range compared to the Leafs that came before it—not to mention the addition of optional semi-autonomous driving features, and considerably more mainstream looks. Barring any major surprises from Nissan regarding range, there will be those who say that anything less than 200+ miles of range is irrelevant. But I beg to differ: We need more options, not less, and a wider range of price points for people to dip into electrified transportation.
Even at 160 miles of range, I could have easily handled my road trip this weekend with only one stop for fast charging in either direction. But that brings me to my bigger hope for Nissan's revamped Leaf: Will they finally get serious about investing in serious fast charging, at faster rates, in more convenient locations?
While much of the Tesla buzz has been around range, speed, acceleration or fancy door handles and falcon-wing doors, the really exciting story is the fact that their supercharger and destination charger networks are mushrooming rapidly, are located in places you'd actually want to hang out (sorry, I'm not that into Nissan dealerships), and can charge a Tesla at a much faster rate than either the Leaf or the Bolt. Chances are, you can drive a Tesla anywhere in the mainland, contiguous states of the US without seriously worrying about running out of juice. Given that most of us charge at home the majority of the time—but do occasionally take road trips—this may actually be more important than battery range.
I'm not the only one who feels this way. The good folks over at Cleantechnica have even penned an open letter we can all sign to Renault-Nissan urging them to get with the program regarding a serious, networked approach to actual fast charging. What are the chances they're listening?
Find out tonight, by watching the lifestream of the launch at 8.30 PM (ET) over at Inside EVs.