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2015 Nissan Leaf SL: A Global EV For The Masses

It's All Electric

The Leaf's main selling point is its all-electric powertrain that drives the front wheels. Unlike the Tesla Model S, which efficiently packs a motor into the back of the car, Nissan employs a traditional layout with the electric motor up front and easily accessible. The AC motor is combined with a 24 kWh DC battery pack mounted nice and low below the seats. Since the motor runs on AC and the battery pack is DC, the Leaf employs an inverter. Nissan rates the powertrain at 107hp with 187 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers don't sound like much. However, the instant torque provides a nice performance kick in city driving.

Inside the battery pack, you'll find 192 cells spread across 48 modules. The air-cooled power source is built in Japan by Automotive Energy Supply Corporation, a Nissan and NEC joint venture.

The 2015 Nissan Leaf sports a new battery pack with updated chemistry. It's nicknamed the “lizard” battery and supposedly handles high-temperature climates a lot better without rapid degradation. Since we only had the press car for two weeks, this isn't something we could test. And unfortunately, Nissan won't disclose details of its more modern battery design.

Since the Leaf was the first electric vehicle available to the masses, Nissan backs its battery pack with a fairly comprehensive warranty that protects the entire powertrain and EV system for the first five years or 60,000 miles. There’s a standard powertrain warranty of eight years or 100,000 miles that covers the battery pack in case of flaws or defects, too.

Similar to hybrid vehicles, the Leaf’s electric motor employs regenerative braking, harnessing energy that's otherwise lost. During this process, the electric motor functions as a generator to recharge the battery. Regenerative braking in the regular D mode isn’t too noticeable; it makes the Leaf drive like a normal car. Those who want to maximize the feature can put the Leaf into B mode, which slow the car down more quickly. Driving around in the city, B mode is nice in stop-and-go traffic. With enough practice, patience and discipline, you can drive the Leaf in B mode using only the accelerator.

Charging

Nissan equips the Leaf with the same SAE J1772-2009 connector for level 1 (120V) and level 2 (240V) charging that every other EV has. The standard Leaf has a 3.3 kW on-board charger with a faster 6.6 kW charger available. To be frank, the 3.3 kW charger is awfully slow; it takes about eight hours to fully charge at 240V. The optional 6.6 kW charger (standard on the SV and SL) takes half the time, which makes a big difference if you exceed the driving range often.

Also standard on the SL trim (and optional on the S and SV) is a CHAdeMO DC connector that can take advantage of 500V chargers. Purportedly, they'll get a completely depleted Leaf battery to 80 percent in only 30 minutes. If your city infrastructure has CHAdeMO quick-charging stations, the option is a must-have for getting back on the road quickly.

Charging At Home

The 2015 Nissan Leaf isn't our first experience with an electric vehicle. We tried to test a 2014 model, but found the included level 1 charger dreadfully slow. It just wouldn't work for anyone with a sizable commute. But that's not what EV ownership is supposed to be, and the level 1 charger is really only good for dire situations.

Before we received the 2015 Nissan Leaf, we reached out to Bosch for a level two charger installation. The company sent over its 30A model, and I tackled the install myself. Before you do the same, make sure you get the proper permits and follow your local laws for performing electrical work. All-told, the job only took about 30 minutes, involving a new breaker and three wires.

This simple addition drastically changed how we test EVs and plug-in hybrids. Instead of taking a day to charge the Leaf from empty, it's a four- or five-hour affair. That's enough time to run errands in the morning, get back home for a charge and have a full battery around dinner time.

Range

Range varies greatly depending on your driving style. The EPA rates the Leaf at 114 MPGe combined and 126/101 for city/highway. I tend to be aggressive, so I got about 60 miles from a charge. When I drove more conservatively, I was able to squeeze out 70+ miles. Most of my driving is on the highway, though. You can get a lot more range in stop-and-go traffic, since the car benefits from regenerative braking.

  • pyoverdin
    Despite deviating from the regular tech reviews I found this article surprisingly enjoyable.
    Reply
  • dstarr3
    So is Anh T. Huynh replacing Clarkson in the next series?
    Reply
  • dweiser
    Great article, nice mix of honest pros and cons. I've owned my 2015 Nissan LEAF SV in the mountains of western NC for almost 3 weeks now and I am loving it!
    My only quibble with your review is that both 2015 SV and SL have the faster 6.6 charging as standard.
    Reply
  • JPNpower
    Electric cars are just so cool. Practicality is getting there, but even if that doesn't match gas cars yet.... they're still so cool!
    Reply
  • SVoyager
    Great article!! The Leaf is certainly an excellent electric car and I am very happy that they are selling as much, nice to see an article on toms about it too, cars are getting techy enough for us :-). The next gen leaf is looking great too with possibly 200 miles range. With that much range and with how battery tech is evolving, I hope the regular gas cars have something ready to counter it because electric cars are coming, this time for good!!

    I own a 2014 chevy Volt and while it is not 100% electric, it is as close as you can get and still get a gas engine for the longer runs (best of both worlds imho). Winter is pretty much done now and I can say goodbye to the gas engine for about 6-7 months. We had a rough winter and my average MPG was close to 200 (the worst was at 75mpg when it was -30 Celcius). In my case, I am saving so much in fuel that it costs me LESS to own this car. You can check the stats here (links allowed?) http://www.voltstats.net/Stats/Details/4835
    So, electric cars just rock. Check what type of driving you do, look for the right EV (in my case, EV with range extender) and you'll never regret it!!
    Reply
  • apache_lives
    Benchmarks?
    Reply
  • turkey3_scratch
    Lol it does actually look like a Bulbasaur.
    Reply
  • kenjitamura
    The competition will really heat up when the Tesla Model 3 hits. A $35,000 electric car with >200 mile range.
    #2017...Hopefully
    Reply
  • palladin9479
    Something that need mentioning is that your house doesn't generate electricity out of thin air, instead it gets it from a distant power plant which is likely utilizing coal. So in essence almost every "EV" is really a coal powered car with a poor efficiency rate due to long haul line losses, unless you happen to live within a hundred miles of the primary power plant. EV's are still far to expensive and from an engineering stand point very poor for anything other then bragging rights.

    The comment on regenerative braking is also wrong as not stopping is always supperior then having to stop and restart. It takes less energy to keep an object in motion then it does to accelerate it from a rest state.
    Reply
  • CaedenV
    Awesome review. I have been rather fascinated by EVs for the last few years, and now that I am soon going to be in the market for a 2nd car I am seriously considering getting one of these for my wife and taking her 10 year old car to drive into the ground the rest of the way. She only has to drive some 15-25 miles per day, so we would really only need to charge it once every few days. Still need to find out what availability/financing/charging options are available in Cincy though before biting the bullet.

    Never mentioned how much that level 2 charger costs retail... I mean, I could look it up, but it may be nice to add to the article.
    Reply