Range anxiety use to be a thing which plagued most early adopters dipping their toes into the electric carpool. That’s when you have one eye on the road, and the other continually checking the battery charge meter on the dashboard. It didn’t matter which car you were driving because it was always going to be a thing. That was until the Nissan Leaf Plus.
The Leaf Plus is the new second-generation model of the Nissan Leaf Electric Car. Since the introduction of the original version in 2010, the Leaf has managed to become the best-selling electric vehicle in the world. But there was always that thing about range anxiety, knowing that you still had 12 miles to go but only had enough charge to go six instead.
The new Nissan Leaf Plus fixes all that. Bigger than the original in almost every way, the Leaf Plus attacks the dread with a new larger battery with more energy density of its 62 kWh battery pack and the higher output of its powertrain. Overall, it adds nearly 50-percent to the mileage of the previous version, with an EPA range of up to 226 miles. By doing this, Nissan can potentially meet the driving needs of a much more extensive range of customers.
The new Nissan Leaf Plus features a higher capacity battery and more powerful 160 kW electric motor that now works to make 214 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. Overall, that’s an increase of 45-percent. Just for comparison’s sake, the standard Nissan Leaf works with a 40 kW battery pack and an EPA range of 150 miles versus the Leaf Plus and its 226-mile range.
THE RIDE INSIDE
The interior of the New Leaf Plus is a little traditional motor car coupled with a bit of Buck Rodgers, too. Sure, it’s equipped with the Nissan flat-bottomed steering wheel to impart that racing feel where there really isn’t a need for one. Loaded with high quality throughout and includes some futuristic flares like a round gear selector knob, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, as well as navigation and satellite radio with a great Bose audio sound system. If we were calling balls and strikes, we’d call balls on the steering wheel with loads of tilt, but strikes because the column doesn’t telescope to the driver.
The Leaf Plus comfortably seats five passengers and up to 23.6 cubic feet of things in the cargo hold. The standard electric charging cable also fits nicely inside.
The Leaf Plus comes with NissanConnect, which searches for the locations and operating hours of free charging stations and pay charging station availability. Owners are also able to use their smartphones to check on the battery charge level before heading on a journey.
ProPILOT Assist and e-Pedal
ProPILOT is Nissan’s intelligent driving assist is the technology that automatically adjusts the following distance of your Leaf Plus to the vehicle you are trailing behind. It can also help keep the Leaf centered in its lane. The system, Nissan says, is so intelligent it can stop your car if the car in front comes to a complete stop. Once the traffic starts to flow, a simple press of the ProPILOT button on the steering wheel is all it takes to start your Leaf moving again.
Further along, is Nissan’s e-Pedal, which allows a driver to start, accelerate, decelerate, and stop using only the accelerator pedal. It has been enhanced over previous versions to provide better feedback and smoother operations.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
Unplug, cap off, close the hatch and go. That’s all it takes with the Nissan Leaf Plus. Getting settled behind the wheel of the Leaf Plus can be a bit of a surprise, though, especially when you consider you won’t be hearing an engine revving as it starts. Instead, it’s the sound of a gentle whirrrrr that you’ll hear. We remember talk of a noisemaking device that alerts bystanders and pedestrians there’s an electric car in their midst. Otherwise, a pedestrian with their face buried in their smartphone may be oblivious to a silently running electric Leaf.
As an aside, we are anxiously awaiting the day when having an electric car plugged into a standard 110-volt outlet for 12 hours will result in a 100-percent fully charged vehicle. Imagine our disappointment finding only a 20-percent gain, from a 64 to 84-percent charge, after 12 hours. There has to be a better way.
Acceleration is fine and for lack of a better phrase, very car-like when pulling away from a stop. Brakes felt well-modulated, with just a touch of fade that seems to be typical for most cars of this size. The bottom line though was the Leaf Plus handles like a typical tallish hatchback. Mind you, it doesn’t hug the corners the same way a BMW 3 Series would, but it does manage to at least feel like a crossover, rather than a sports sedan.
Using the e-Pedal turns out to be an enjoyable way to operate the Leaf Plus. Press the accelerator and the car lurches off but not before you notice a stronger force required to press the skinny pedal. Just as soon as you lift your foot from the “go pedal,” you begin to feel things slow down with the force of applying the brakes, even though your foot is nowhere near that pedal. Doing that serves two masters: the regeneration master helps to recover lost energy, while the braking master helps to slow the car down.
On the other hand, when you step on the pedal, few cars will display the level of acceleration you will find in a Leaf. Perhaps a Ferrari or a Tesla.
All we can say is buckle up, start up and hold on.
NISSAN LEAF PLUS
Type: Plug-in Electric Vehicle
Motor: High-response 160 kW AC Synchronous electric motor
Batteries: 62 kWh lithium-ion battery, 288 cells
Horsepower: 214 horsepower
Torque: 250 lb-ft
Charging time: 240 V ~ 11.5 hours
Includes: Portable charge cable (120/240 V) included.
Range: EPA range: 226 miles (actual range depends on temp, driving style)
Battery Warranty: 8 years/100,000 miles
Transmission: Single speed reducer
Shifter: Shift by wire
Drive Mode: Normal, ECO-Mode, B-Mode (for battery regeneration)
Steering: Speed-sensitive electric power assist
Suspension Front: Independent MacPherson strut with coil springs and stabilizer bar
Suspension Rear: Torsion beam with integrated stabilizer bar
Length: 176.4 inches
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Height: 61.4 inches
Width: 61.2 inches
Cargo: 23.6 cu ft. behind rear seat, 30.0 cu ft. with rear seat folded