A lot of things happen at the Frankfurt Auto Show (IAA) this month and a lot was said; but lost in all the hoopla was a Nissan's exec's admission that the LEAF would see a range improvement of a reliable 200 km (124.2) miles within the current generational cycle.
“For sure within the current model cycle,” said Andy Palmer - Nissan Executive Vice-President (and product planning boss) at the IAA when commenting on a 'real world' 200 km range, "the LEAF was introduced in 2010 and is expected to have a six-year life."
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It should be noted that while the Nissan LEAF is currently only rated at 75 miles (120 km) in the United States by the EPA, it is wildly overrated at 200 km already in Europe on the
useless NEDC standard where these comments were made.
Improvements in range during a current product cycle are actually not without precedent in the electric vehicle industry. But most have been very marginal.
Some slight improvements were seen in the 2013 LEAF, as range moved from a straight 73 miles to a blended 75 miles. Also, the Chevrolet Volt seen an additional .5 kWh added to its battery, and a subsequent range bump from 35 miles to 38 miles as well in 2013.
Mr. Palmer further told Motoring AU at the Frankfurt show that increases in the range was attainable because the density of lithium batteries was improving quickly.
“They are developing much faster than I ever believed. Four years ago when we started on the LEAF program we imagined a 4 year cycle of the battery. Two years ago we went to a two-year cycle, now we are modifying the battery every model year.”
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The Nissan exec did say that longer ranges were certainly achievable now, but that the density and the cost of the battery was a determining factor in determining how far the LEAF can travel.
“We can do 200km (124 miles) now. But it’s a cost balance. You can go to bigger batteries, that is relatively easy, but the more interesting stuff is the changing of the chemistry to get more kW hours out of the same packaging space.
That’s because every time you add cells you add weight and the battery on a LEAF is already 280kg. You want to get into a virtuous circle of similar weight and more energy density."
Before going to press we did give Nissan some time/opportunity for comment or to confirm this apparent rather large development, but the company declined to comment - which makes sense; why would an auto maker confirm such a drastic improvement was in the pipeline when you have product to sell today?
So, while no confirmation was forthcoming, there are some facts to support that this longer range LEAF may indeed be a reality in the not-so-far future, as the Infiniti LE was recently delayed about a year because battery technology was advancing so quickly.
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Some quotes from Mr. Palmer on the LE over the past 3 months:
“There are some interesting advances in electric technology we hadn’t anticipated when we showed the LE, which, by delaying a little bit, we can incorporate into the car.”
“Certain technologies that we see now, which we didn’t see two years ago, are going to be available in a time frame that was relatively close to where we were going to introduce the Infiniti. Rather than miss those opportunities, and then have to reconfigure the car to adopt them in its life cycle, what we wanted to do is to bring those from the beginning.”
Mr. Palmer also confirmed the delay was a relatively short one, adding "it's (the Infiniti LE) still within our mid-term plan.”
We surmise that any longer range LEAF would be as an added, more expensive option that would be offered alongside the current iteration of the car.
Who is ready for an affordable 125 mile EV? We certainly are!