Nissan reports its already taking more orders than expected for the second-generation Leaf EV just getting ready to roll into U.S. showrooms. It helps that the 2018 battery-car gets a big boost in range and some nifty new technologies like the e-Pedal.
But while the 2018 Nissan Leaf is a bit quicker it’s by no means what one would call a performance car. And that’s the sort of feature that a lot of the Japanese manufacturer’s EV competitors are starting to emphasize. Indeed, Nissan itself is teasing the idea with its IMx concept which boasts more torque than the marque’s GT-R supercar.
But is there a peppier version of the new Leaf in the works? Maybe yes, at least if you think there was a reason for Nissan to roll out the Leaf NISMO Concept during this week’s Tokyo Motor Show media preview.
NISMO, you may recall, is Nissan’s performance brand-within-a-brand, and we’ve been seeing it add its deft touch to a growing number of the Japanese carmaker’s products in recent years.
(Nissan electrifies Tokyo Motor Show. For the story, Click Here.)
In fact, this isn’t the first time Nissan has hinted NISMO could charge up the Leaf. Way back in April 2011, at the New York Auto Show, we got a look at the Nissan Leaf NISMO RC, a performance concept based on what was then the very new and very first high-volume battery-electric vehicle to hit the market.
Among other things, the RC features a carbon fiber monocoque that was 20% lighter than the stock, first-gen Leaf’s platform. To bring weight down to just 2,068 pounds, NISMO opted for a two-door configuration, shortened the battery-car’s wheelbase by 3.9 inches and tossed out such unneeded items as the radio and navigation system. The battery was also relocated to improve the RC’s center of gravity.
As for the new Nissan Leaf NISMO Concept, engineers started out with the stock gen-2 body, enhanced the sportiness of its design and tweaked its electric driveline.
Though they only offered some hints as to what that means during Nissan’s Tokyo news conference, we expect it to make significantly more than the stock BEV’s 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque (which is about 40% better than the original model).
(Click Here for more about Nissan’s IMx Concept.)
The good news is that a Leaf NISMO wouldn’t be going back to square one, at least when it comes to range. The 2018 all-electric model gets a larger, 40 kilowatt-hour battery good for an EPA-estimated 150 miles of range. And Nissan already has revealed a 60 kWh battery is coming next year, boosting range to 200 miles. We expect that would be the stock battery for a NISMO version, albeit it trading some of that extra range for a few more thrills.
As for visual changes, the Leaf NISMO Concept sits lower than the 2018 stock model, and gets unique bumpers and side skirts. It boasts larger six-spoke alloy wheels, and a two-tone black-and-white paint scheme with red accents.
Just how fast could it be? Some sources inside Nissan are talking sub-6 seconds 0-60. That would be several seconds quicker than the latest Leaf in stock trim and best the Chevrolet Bolt EV, though not quite match a stock Tesla Model 3.
(To see more about Nissan’s future electrification plans, Click Here.)
It’s long been said that automakers will have to deal with three issues to enhance the appeal of battery-electric vehicles: improve range, cut charging times and lower prices. At less than $30,000 for 150 miles and with a bit faster charging, Nissan has addressed those issues. But now, performance is starting to be the new game-changer. A production version of the Leaf NISMO Concept could be just what many potential BEV buyers have been looking for.