Much as Toyota has done with its Prius hybrid, Nissan appears ready to create an entire “family” of Leaf battery-electric vehicles.
The second-largest Japanese automaker plans to pulls the wraps off the Leaf Grand Touring Concept during the 2018 Tokyo Auto Salon next month – where it will share the stage with the Nissan Leaf NISMO Concept that was first unveiled at the recent Tokyo Motor Show.
Nissan isn’t saying what it might have in mind for the GT show car, but it has been hinting that it wants to offer more than a single variant of the newly redesigned, generation-two Leaf. Among other things, it plans to introduce an optional battery pack later in 2018 that will boost the EVs range from 150 to “200-plus miles.”
(First Drive; 2018 Nissan Leaf. Click Here for our review.)
The Leaf Grand Touring Concept is finished in a two-tone silver-and-black paint scheme and adds a new body kit designed to give it a more sporty appearance that, some suggest, have been inspired by the aggressive little Nissan Micra minicar.
We’ll likely have to wait until January 14th to get the details on what’s underneath the skin of the Leaf GT, though we’d be surprised if it didn’t feature a longer-range battery and perhaps even the NISMO model’s more powerful drivetrain.
Actually, Nissan hasn’t really revealed much about that model, either, only promising that it would outperform the gen-2 production Leaf substantially, company officials hinting in Tokyo at a 0 to 60 launch time of around six seconds. That would certainly require more than the 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque the 2018 Leaf manages out of its single electric motor.
Ironically, vehicles that were once disdained for their slow and boring ride characteristics are undergoing some major changes. At a recent drive of the 2018 Leaf, a senior member of the EV development team said Nissan is well aware of the performance capabilities of electric motors, which generate maximum torque the moment they start turning, as well as market interest in battery-car performance.
That has been underscored by the strong demand for Tesla Models S and X equipped with the optional Ludicrous Mode. Porsche, Audi, Jaguar and other manufacturers plan to emphasize the performance of their new battery-electric vehicles as much as the environmental benefits.
(For more on the Leaf NISMO, Click Here.)
As to the GT, our bet is that Nissan will bill it as a balanced package, with improved performance and lots more upscale details and features than the current gen-2 Leaf. That will help shift focus away from the perception of battery-cars as little more than stripped-down commuter vehicles.
Nissan took another major step with the 2018 Leaf, adopting a more conventional exterior design than the original battery-car. Initially, manufacturers bet that buyers would want their green machines to stand out, much like the Prius. But potential buyers now seem to want something more likely to fit in. Honda reportedly is even considering whether to fit a “hybrid” badge on the third-generation Insight model it will debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in a few weeks.
(Chevy may be ready to unplug the Volt plug-in hybrid. Click Here to learn why.)