The new Nissan Leaf e+ “is not an EV.” It’s a backup battery

Nissan’s Asako Hoshino and Daniele Schillaci reveal the Nissan Leaf e+, surrounded by modern, and power-sucking appliances. © Bertel Schmitt

Four years ago, Dailykanban broke the news of an upcoming Nissan Leaf with the hitherto unbelievable range of 400 kilometers. Four years is about what it takes to develop a new car, and today, I finally saw the 400+ kilometers Nissan Leaf in the flesh. Or rather, on a stage a Nissan’s HQ in Yokohama, Japan.

To a few detractors, it was an unexpected appearance. When an unveiling of the higher powered Leaf, scheduled for November 28, 2018, was canceled three days after Carlos Ghosn’s arrest in Tokyo, on-line and off-line speculation ensued that the Leaf’s future might be tied to Nissan’s incarcerated ex-Chairman. After all, it was Carlos Ghosn who championed the electric car against all odds, and it was him who led it slip four years ago that a future Leaf might have a range in excess of 400 km. So with Ghosn gone, maybe the Leaf will be left to die?

The speculations were misguided. The November launch was scuttled because Nissan’s PR managers worried that journalists would be more interested in the incarceration, and less in the car. The worries about an attention deficit still aren’t completely dispelled. When invitations went out for today’s event, reporters were told not to expect the usual question and answer sessions, and after Nissan’s global sales chief Daniele Schillaci and Nissan’s JDM boss Asako Hoshino were finished with their speeches and done posing with the car, they quickly exited stage left, such as to avoid reporters who didn’t get, or didn’t obey the memo.

There would have been a lot to ask in the cancelled Q&A. What about that battery? Strangely, Schillaci mentioned the battery only in passing. “The larger battery capacity in Nissan Leaf e+ means the vehicle can travel a greater distance on a single charge” was all he wanted to divulge on stage about the Leaf’s power source. Reporters had to peruse the press release, but it also doesn’t tell much more than that the new battery “offers more than 40% additional range of up to 458 km (WLTC Japan cycle)” while having “almost the same size and configuration” as the battery pack in the lower spec Leaf. A look in the catalog finally reveals that the e+ battery is rated at 62 kWh, that’s 55% more juice in the same space.

Instead of touting the virtues of a battery with a huge jump in energy density, Schillaci gave a long lecture on marketing strategy, where the car is “not an EV,” but part of an “ecosystem, where EVs don’t just power your drive, they also power your life.” So enamored was he with the somewhat tortured slogan, that he repeated it twice. Most of today’s launch was used to position the new Leaf as a – if all Leafs are taken and connected together – communal 10 Gigawatt hours backup battery that buffers the grid and keeps the lights on when disaster strikes.

To make sure that the emergency power to the people story was understood, the stage for today’s e+ reveal was a modern Japanese house, filled with convenient and power-grabbing appliances, all connected to a Leaf center stage. Instead of being treated to boring car specs, we could channel our inner peeping toms, and follow a real life Japanese teenager into the bathroom, where she languidly sucked 1000 Watts out of the Leaf’s battery while drying her very long hair. We could see mother cook, and, surprisingly, watch the husband do the laundry.

In closing, Schillaci said once more that “EVs don’t just power your drive, they also power your life,” and he yielded the stage to Nissan’s Japan boss Asako Hoshino, who basically repeated the Leaf-as-a-backup-battery story one more time, thankfully, without the slogan.

According to Schillaci, “the Nissan Leaf remains the world’s best-selling EV of all times” with more than 380,000 units sold word-wide. That might change if the Leaf will continue to be sold as a standby power generator, and not as an affordable, reliable, worry-free, fun to drive, high tech car that makes range anxiety a thing of the past. But then, I could be wrong, and way too conservative.