More than a couple of people have been wondering what might happen if Nissan went ahead and took priority away from energy saving and range expectations away from their Leaf EV and instead focus all that tech and knowhow to making it fast and fun. What sort of car might emerge from that gestation?
The first-generation Leaf was a breakthrough for the automaker but a bit limp overall, but with the introduction of its successor, questions again began to swirl around whether a hot Leaf EV could/would be on the cards. After all, it was sleeker, drove better, boasted more range as well as a punchier electric motor.
Here, Nissan has built something along the lines of a potential Leaf NISMO yet hesitates to call it that. In fact, it hasn’t really given it an official name at all and instead confirms that it is based on the production Leaf e+ variant and utilises dual motors and some ‘all-wheel control’ magic.
Perhaps this a knowledge transfer from recently acquired sister company Mitsubishi and their S-AWC system made famous in the Lancer Evolution, albeit using variable drive and electronically-controlled torque vectoring.
“The new electric-drive four-wheel-control technology now being developed integrates Nissan’s electric propulsion and 4WD control technologies with our chassis control technology to achieve a huge leap in acceleration, cornering and braking performance, on par with the latest sports cars.” - Takao Asami, senior vice president for research and advanced engineering at Nissan.
Even in the press release, hilariously, Nissan is still trying to spin this dual-motor Leaf as being important research for their Intelligent Mobility endeavours. We struggle to see the connection when presented with a compact, twin-motor hatch with 227kW and 680Nm on tap.
Naturally, numbers on acceleration and top speed are not disclosed, but we’re prepared to bet it being rather brisk. Still, it’s kind of a wonder that the relatively comfort-oriented Continental UltraContact tyres are able to cope with that assault of instant torque, though Nissan describes its speed accrual as “uncommonly smooth”.
Through precision adjustments to how power is transmitted to wheel, this prototype Nissan Leaf can yield very high comfort levels by adding regenerative rear motor braking to the more typical front regen’ braking to reduce shake and dampen inertial forces felt by occupants.
The big unanswered question here boils down to the car’s potential range and how adversely it is impacted by the addition of a second motor. The production Leaf e+ boasts a 62kWh lithium ion battery mounted low between the front and rear wheels, which is generous given its compact dimensions, resulting in an EPA-measured range of over 350km.