The Nissan Leaf is a battery-electric compact car that has been manufactured by Nissan since 2010. It was the first mass-produced electric vehicle aimed at the mainstream market. Over 500,000 Leafs have been sold worldwide as of early 2023, making it the world’s all-time best selling electric car.
Nissan introduced the Leaf in 2010 as a five-door hatchback. Since then, there have been two generations of the Leaf spanning model years 2010 to 2023. This article provides an overview of the different Leaf models and years, detailing the battery, performance, interior, pricing, awards, competitors, and future outlook.
The goal is to provide a comprehensive look at the history and evolution of Nissan’s pioneering electric vehicle. Whether you’re considering buying a used Leaf or just want to learn about this innovative hatchback, this guide covers key specs and details on all Leaf models so far.
First Generation (2010-2017)
The first generation Nissan Leaf (codename ZE0) was first introduced in Japan and the United States in December 2010, marking the first mass production of an all-electric vehicle. Key launch dates and markets for the first generation include:
- December 2010 – Japan and United States
- March 2011 – Europe
- June 2011 – Canada
- September 2011 – China
The first generation Leaf featured an 80 kW electric motor powered by a 24 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. It had a range of 117 km on the Japanese cycle and 73 miles on the EPA cycle. Additional specs and features included:
- Curb weight of 1,642 kg
- 5 seats
- 323 liter cargo capacity
- 6.6 kW onboard charger
- 80-100 mile EPA estimated range
By early 2014, Nissan had sold over 100,000 Leafs worldwide. Total sales figures for the first generation reached over 283,000 by the end of 2017 when production ceased.
Second Generation (2018-Present)
In October 2017, Nissan introduced the second generation Leaf with a complete redesign and several major improvements. Key changes included an all-new chassis, restyled exterior, increased range, and more power. Nissan focused on addressing consumer feedback to extend the Leaf’s range and improve styling.
The 2018 Leaf launched with a 40 kWh battery providing 151 miles of range, a significant improvement over the outgoing model’s 107 mile range. Nissan also introduced a longer range Leaf Plus trim in 2019 with a 62 kWh battery and up to 226 miles of range. This gave consumers more range options to meet their needs.
With the redesign, Nissan improved the Leaf’s power and performance. The standard 150 hp electric motor provides livelier acceleration. An optional 214 hp motor is available on the Leaf Plus for faster 0-60 mph times under 7 seconds.
Sales of the second generation Leaf have been strong as consumers responded positively to the increased range. In 2018, Nissan sold 14,715 Leafs in the U.S., up significantly from 10,740 the prior year. The Leaf continues to be one of the top selling electric vehicles behind the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y.
Battery and Charging
The Nissan Leaf battery capacity has increased over the years as the technology has improved. The first generation Leaf (2010-2017) had battery options of 24 kWh or 30 kWh, providing an EPA estimated range of 84 miles and 107 miles respectively (Nissan). The second generation Leaf introduced in 2018 increased battery capacity to 40 kWh with an estimated 150 mile range, and later 60 kWh with up to 226 miles of range.
Charging times depend on the type of charging equipment. With a standard 120V outlet (Level 1 charging), the Leaf battery can be fully charged in about 21 hours. Using a 240V Level 2 charging station cuts that time to around 8 hours. The Leaf also supports DC fast charging via CHAdeMO, which can provide an 80% charge in 40-60 minutes (EVgo). Nissan introduced the CHAdeMO quick charging port starting with the first generation.
The Leaf battery has thermal management to keep the battery pack at optimal temperatures while charging and discharging. Features include a battery heater, a fan for forced air cooling, and dedicated radiator and coolant flow to regulate battery temperature.
Performance and Handling
The Nissan Leaf offers smooth, responsive acceleration thanks to its electric motor. According to Car and Driver, the standard 147 horsepower electric motor in the Leaf S provides 236 lb-ft of instant torque, allowing it to go from 0-60 mph in around 7.4 seconds.
The Leaf’s low center of gravity gives it secure handling and a stable ride. Nissan tuned the suspension for comfort, so it absorbs bumps well while remaining nimble around turns. The steering is light and precise, making the Leaf easy to maneuver.
The Leaf also comes equipped with modern driver assist features. Standard across all trims is Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 suite, which includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, and automatic high beams.
Interior and Exterior
The Nissan Leaf offers a spacious and comfortable interior with seating for up to 5 passengers. The cargo area provides 23.6 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, expanding to 30 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down (https://www.nissanusa.com/vehicles/electric-cars/leaf/gallery/interior.html). The front seats are heated and designed for comfort on long drives. Overall, reviewers have praised the Leaf for its roomy interior and cargo practicality especially for a compact hatchback.
On the outside, the Leaf has a modern, aerodynamic shape with a low drag coefficient to maximize efficiency. It measures 175 inches long, 70.5 inches wide and 61 inches high. Styling cues include LED headlights and taillights, an edgy V-motion grille design and flush door handles. The 2022 Leaf comes in a range of exterior colors including Scarlet Ember, Brilliant Silver, Gun Metallic, Pearl White, Super Black, Blue Pearl and Magnetic Red (https://www.nissanusa.com/vehicles/electric-cars/leaf/gallery/exterior.html).
Pricing and Availability
The 2023 Nissan LEAF starts at an MSRP of $32,545, including the $1,295 destination and handling charge. This represents over a $1,700 price reduction compared to the previous model year (cited:https://www.cargurus.com/research/price-trends/Nissan-LEAF-d2077). When the LEAF first launched in 2010, it had an MSRP of $33,630. Prices fluctuated over the years but generally trended downwards as battery costs decreased and Nissan looked to make the vehicle more accessible. In 2021, MSRP hit a low of $31,670 before ticking back up for 2022 and 2023 models.
Nissan frequently offers incentives and special financing options to help make the LEAF more affordable. Buyers may qualify for federal tax credits up to $7,500 in addition to any state/local incentives. Leasing is another popular option with competitive monthly payments. According to Nissan’s website, current lease offers start at $349/month with just $2,999 due at signing for a 2023 LEAF.
The Nissan LEAF is sold globally across Asia, Europe, North America and South America. Pricing varies considerably based on local market conditions, import duties, and currency exchange rates. In Japan for example, the LEAF starts around 3.7 million yen (~$28,000 USD). Nissan tends to prioritize affordability to drive EV adoption, even if that means slimmer profit margins on the vehicle.
Awards and Reviews
The Nissan Leaf has earned positive reviews from experts and high satisfaction from owners. According to J.D. Power’s 2023 ratings, the Leaf earns an overall score of 8.3 out of 10 (J.D. Power, 2023). Reviewers praise the Leaf for its smooth and responsive acceleration, composed handling, and user-friendly tech. At the same time, the Leaf offers excellent value compared to other EVs.
In owner satisfaction surveys, Nissan Leaf drivers consistently rate their vehicles highly. For 4 consecutive years, the Leaf has won “Best Used Small Electric Car” in the DrivingElectric Awards based on owner feedback (Nissan, 2022). Owners highlight the Leaf’s reliability, low running costs, and accessible technology.
The Nissan Leaf has also earned accolades from the industry. It was named the 2011 World Car of the Year and has been on Car and Driver’s 10Best list multiple times. Awards like these demonstrate the Leaf’s standing as an innovative, high-quality electric vehicle.
The Nissan Leaf faces competition from other affordable electric vehicles in the compact hatchback segment. Its main competitors include:
- Chevrolet Bolt EV – The Bolt offers similar range to the base Leaf at an affordable price point. However, the Bolt has less power and tech features than higher-trim Leafs. (Source)
- Hyundai Kona Electric – The Kona Electric edges out the Leaf in range, offering up to 258 miles per charge. It also has a more premium interior but starts at a higher price. (Source)
- Kia Niro EV – The Niro EV gives more cargo space than the Leaf, with similar range and performance. However, the Leaf has more tech features available. (Source)
Overall, the Leaf holds up well against rivals with its balance of affordability, driving range, and features. While some competitors edge out the Leaf in certain areas, the Leaf remains competitive in its price bracket as an established affordable EV.
The Nissan Leaf is expected to see significant changes and improvements in the coming years. Nissan has announced plans to launch an all-new electric vehicle to replace the Leaf starting in 2025 (Source). The new EV is expected to have increased range and performance compared to the current Leaf.
Nissan plans to expand Leaf production and sales to new markets across the globe. The company aims to launch the new Leaf successor in Europe, Japan, China and North America. Nissan hopes to regain its position as a leader in the mainstream EV market (Source).
Industry trends point towards continued strong growth for EVs, driven by consumer demand, government incentives and regulations, and improving EV technology and infrastructure. Nissan aims to capitalize on these trends by delivering more competitive, affordable EVs like the Leaf. The new Leaf replacement will be key for Nissan to gain market share in the rapidly evolving EV landscape.