Turning over a new Leaf.
The Nissan IDS is arguably the most significant concept of the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show. Why? It’s built on an all-new EV platform that will underpin the next-generation Nissan Leaf. What’s more, Nissan sources say the exterior styling is very close to that of the next-gen Leaf, scheduled to debut in 2018. But most importantly, the IDS signals Nissan’s intent to produce an affordable, mass-market autonomous vehicle before the end of the decade.
Next year Nissan plans to sell in Japan a Leaf capable of operating autonomously on a freeway; that is, with hands-free lane keeping and stop-and-go adaptive cruise control. In 2018, when the next-generation Leaf debuts, autonomous capability will be increased to include automatic lane changing and risk avoidance. Leafs with this degree of autonomous capability will be available in the North America.
By 2020, says Tetsuya Ijima, Nissan’s head of autonomous vehicle research and development, self-driving Leafs will be able to operate on general roads. While capable of operating autonomously — Nissan calls it “piloted drive mode” — the cars will still be able to be driven with full manual control, however.
To kick-start sales of autonomous drive vehicles Nissan plans to offer the technology at an affordable price, and the Leaf’s EV powertrain is key. In fact, says Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, it’s essential to advancing the autonomous drive vehicle. Nissan now has significant EV production experience — the world’s largest producer of EVs, it has now sold more than 200,000 worldwide — and is starting to make significant improvements in reducing costs and increasing range.
A revamped version of the current Leaf will go on sale in the North America next year with a 30-kWh battery and a 20-percent increase in range. The all-new 2018 Leaf will boast a 60-kWh battery, and should be able to travel more than 200 miles on a single charge. “By combining electric vehicles and autonomous drive, Nissan is moving closer to zero emissions and zero fatality driving,” Ghosn says.