The 2019 Leaf Plus has a longer driving range and provides quicker acceleration than its platform-sharing counterpart, the second-generation Leaf, thanks to a higher-output motor and additional battery cells. Nissan’s most powerful electric car yet claims a 226 mi/321 km driving range, outpacing the standard Leaf’s 150 mi/241 km driving range. The Leaf Plus is in league with other longer-range EVs, including the Chevrolet Bolt, Hyundai Kona and the Tesla Model 3.
All Leaf models (first introduced in MY2011) package lithium-ion batteries under the floor between the axles. “The key engineering challenge for us was adding 50% more battery capacity into an existing packaging space,” said Nathan Herbrandson, North American program development manager for the Leaf, during a recent Leaf Plus media intro in southern California. The Leaf’s 40-kW·h battery pack has two layers of modules (192 cells), while the Leaf Plus’s 62-kW·h pack has three layers of modules (288 cells).
The Leaf Plus uses a flexible modular battery architecture to vary the number of cells that can be stacked in a module, providing a 68 mm/2.67-in height increase compared to the Leaf. In addition, the ‘dead space’ between the cells created by the cell-tab jointing process was reduced by 20 mm/0.78 in through laser welding. There are also fewer structural parts on the Leaf Plus as the first layer of cell modules were affixed directly to the floor.
“Engineers looked for every opportunity to get additional battery capacity using the underfloor space because customers aren’t willing to give up interior space, even for longer range,” Herbrandson said. Unlike most of the entrants in the segment, the battery pack in the Leaf Plus remains air-cooled.
While the Leaf’s AC synchronous electric motor produces 110 kW (147 hp) and 320 N·m (236 lb·ft), the Leaf Plus motor provides 160 kW (214 hp) and 339 N·m (250 lb·ft). The additional juice translates to stronger acceleration, with Nissan claiming a 10% quicker 0-100 kph/0-62.5 mph time, and a 13% quicker 82-120 kph/50-75 mph time. “The size of the motor didn’t change, we’re just getting more capacity,” said Herbrandson, noting that additional structural reinforcements were necessary to handle the increased power.
Battery recharge times for the Leaf Plus are estimated at 11.5 hours for a full charge at Level-2 (240V). With quick charging, the timeline is 60 minutes for an 80% charge with 50 kW DC and 45 minutes with 100 kW DC. Nissan officials did not provide specific information relating to battery performance in cold weather, but a cold weather package (including heated front seats/steering wheel/side mirrors) is offered on both the Leaf and Leaf Plus.
“The cold weather package has a hybrid heating unit that uses a coil system and a forced-air heat pump system to deliver 30% more efficiency in terms of heat creation,” noted Brian Maragno, Nissan North America’s Director of Marketing and Sales Strategy for Electric Vehicle Operations. “In doing that, it doesn’t require as much energy from the battery, leaving more energy in the battery for driving.”
Other Leaf Plus features include a new infotainment system with an 8-in display and customizable home screen, a next-generation navigation and audio platform that enables software updates to be wirelessly downloaded directly to the vehicle, as well as standard intelligent forward collision warning and rear door alert.