Last week we were invited to San Diego to drive the new Nissan Leaf Plus, the updated version of the Leaf with a new 62kWh battery pack, which will start sales in March.
We spent the day driving it all through the county on a variety of roads, and came away impressed if not surprised by this iteration on an already-solid package.
The main practical upshot of the Leaf Plus’s larger battery is that the car has increased range, power and quick charge ability.
Nissan has managed to fit a larger battery in about the same volume by eliminating dead space in the battery pack. They employ a new battery module design with less space between cells and adopted laser welding to reduce the size of connections between cells and squeeze more energy into the space they have available. They’ve also added another parallel module to modify the input/output current of the pack in an attempt to reduce heat generation.
As soon as we got onto the freeway, the Nissan Leaf Plus impressed. The main place where increased power output from the larger battery is noticeable is in high-speed acceleration. Electric cars typically only have one gear and suffer from a drop-off in power delivery at higher speeds. The easiest way for manufacturers to solve this problem is to attach a larger battery. The Leaf Plus has done this, and that allows it to pull more at higher speeds, offering better highway-merging and lane-change acceleration.
Even in “ECO” mode, I felt that the Leaf Plus offered good acceleration at all legal highway speeds. When I discovered that I had accidentally been driving in ECO mode for the first 10 miles or so of the review (and then, naturally, turned it off right away), I found that the car was even snappier.
The increased power resulted in some torque steer. On front-wheel drive cars with a lot of torque (thus, many electric cars), torque steer is the sensation that a car is pulling to one side or the other, particularly under hard acceleration. It can be a bit surprising to drivers who experience it for the first time, so this is something to be aware of in this vehicle.
One thing I appreciate about the Leaf is that Nissan has not artificially slowed down the throttle response of their car in any noticeable way. When I speak of throttle response, I mean the time delay between pressing the pedal and the car surging forward. In many electric cars, manufacturers seem hesitant to allow drivers full access to their car’s instant torque, so they slow down the throttle pedal response just a little bit. This is presumably done for safety or comfort reasons, as a driver who isn’t used to this could end up driving in a “jerky” manner. Personally, I think manufacturers just do it so they don’t make their gas cars look bad.
Read More: Electrek