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  • Sunday 21st October 2018

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  • Nissan launches longer-range electric car

    Nissan has launched a longer-range version of its best-selling Leaf electric vehicle, as it fights growing competition in the electric car market.

    The new Leaf can travel about 50% further on a single charge than its predecessor, according to the firm.

    However, it still falls short of the ranges offered by Tesla and GM’s top-end electric cars.

    Other updates include advances in autonomous driving technology and a more modern design.

    The Leaf, the world’s best-selling electric car, is facing increasing competition in the fast-developing green car market, fuelled in part by tightening emissions standards around the world.

    What’s new?

    The new Leaf, on sale in Japan from October and elsewhere early next year, has a longer range thanks to a bigger 40 kilowatt hour battery.

    Because different territories have different tests for electric vehicles, the new Leaf’s quoted range varies according to where it will be sold:

    Electric cars tend to achieve about 20-25% below the quoted figures in real-world tests.

    However, Nissan says the introduction of a one-pedal system – in which a single “e-Pedal” is used to start, accelerate, brake and stop – provides efficiency gains.

    Chris Lilly, content manager for the Next Green Car news site, said while the new model was not “groundbreaking” it should be more appealing to drivers.

    “It takes every element of the old Leaf and improves upon it, and adds a whole lot of new features,” he said.

    Those improvements also include an automated parking system, called ProPilot Park, that will take control of the vehicle to manoeuvre it into tricky spaces.

    The system can handle parallel parking, according to the firm, and can deal with up to seven-point turns. Drivers can also use dashboard controls to make adjustments to the parking spot in advance if they feel necessary.

    The model also automates single-lane highway driving.

    Prices will start at 3,150,360 yen (£22,220), Nissan said. The Japanese carmaker said it would offer a higher priced model, with greater power and range, next year.

    How it compares

    Competition in the electric vehicle market is intensifying as major automakers join specialised manufacturers to develop high-tech, low-emission cars.

    “Electric vehicle technology is advancing rapidly – costs are falling quickly and range is improving,” said Professor David Bailey, an automobile expert at Aston Business School.

    But despite boosting its range, rival models can go much further than Nissan’s latest offering.

    The Tesla Model 3 can run at least 220 miles on a single charge and starts at $35,000 (£26,850), while General Motor’s Chevy Bolt – with a range of 238 miles – starts at about $38,000 (£29,150), according to the companies.

    US automaker Tesla is one of the pioneers in the electric vehicle industry and despite recently releasing its cheapest model to date, it has traditionally catered to the premium end of the market.

    The Nissan Leaf faces more direct competition from models including the Volkswagen e-Golf, BMW i3 and Hyundai’s Iconiq.

    “The Leaf is not going to challenge Tesla,” Next Green Car’s Mr Lilly said. “But the Leaf has price and manufacturing capacity on its side.”

    “You’re getting a lot less range but you’re paying a lot less,” he said.

    Electric future

    Nissan was one of the first automakers to market an electric vehicle to the masses when it launched the first Leaf in 2010. The Leaf became the world’s biggest-selling, all-battery car, with more than 280,000 units sold.

    Despite heavy investment, electric vehicles still represent only a fraction of conventional vehicle sales.

    Just over two million electric vehicles were registered worldwide as of 2016, according to the International Energy Agency, just a slice of the more than 80 million vehicles sold last year.

    One big opportunity is China. Automakers are jostling for a piece of the world’s biggest car market ahead of the introduction of new rules designed to fight pollution.

    China wants electric battery cars and plug-in hybrids to account for at least one-fifth of its vehicle sales by 2025.

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