By on December 13, 2016

2016 Nissan Leaf, Image: Nissan

Renault and Nissan will build the next-generation Zoe and Leaf electric cars using a shared platform. The cooperative endeavor should result in leaner, cleaner, and better EV technologies — something the Japanese automaker needs to implement immediately in the helplessly floundering Leaf.

While the models will have their own distinct styling, they will share the same basic framework and electric motors. Arnaud Deboeuf, senior vice president of Renault-Nissan BV, said that the new generations of the Zoe and Leaf would compete in the same segment. However, since the current Zoe is a supermini, it will need to be sized up into a compact or the Leaf will need to be miniaturized slightly. 

Speaking to Automotive News, Deboeuf avoided giving a timetable for the launch for the new EVs, but suggested that it would happen after the planned Leaf refresh in 2018. France’s Les Echos reported that the Zoe wouldn’t appear before 2020. That’s a long time for the Leaf to wait as the EV landscape continues to shift.

These are not the Nissan Leaf’s salad days. No longer a technological breakthrough, the EV has hit some very hard times. Stronger competition, cheaper gas, and wild deprecation have harmed the little electric. North American Leaf sales peaked in 2014 and have plummeted since then and the car needs away to turn that around before 2020.

Nissan’s Leaf started life with a 73-mile range in 2011, boosted that to 84 miles in 2013, and introduced a 30 kilowatt-hour battery that stretched the range to 107 miles for this year. While that helped it keep pace with other BEVs, it has slowly lost ground. It also can’t stretch that range much more without a drastic redesign, effectively keeping it a short-distance commuter. That isn’t good news considering that the Tesla Model 3 and Chevrolet Bolt will have twice the range for a few thousand dollars more.

Renault recently produced an upgraded Zoe with 400 km (250 miles) of range from a single charge. The French manufacturer receives its lithium-ion pouch cells from LG Chem and Nissan could benefit greatly if some of those higher-density batteries found their way into the 107-mile Leaf before 2020. However, Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault and Nissan, stated earlier this year that he didn’t feel that range would be the most important factor for EV success.

“The [range] anxiety is going to be eliminated only when we have a charging structure that is widespread and visible,” he said. “You go through many cars in your life. I never ask myself, ‘What is the range of your car?’ Why would you when you have gasoline stations all over the place. I know I could stop at any moment and charge my car … So this is going to be the real and final answer.”

That charging network isn’t in place yet and, even when it is, vehicles with the ability to travel long distances between stops will remain desirable. Someone might want to tell Ghosn that is why there were almost 400,000 preorders for Tesla’s Model 3 right after it was announced. It’s also why Nissan’s own e-Power system was such a sensation.

Ghosn has said the Leaf will compete with the Bolt, but it needs it now, not in a few more years when sales are even worse and its been lost in the mix of lesser EVs. However, that’s the timeline we have been given. Deboeuf said that the choice to develop a new shared-platform model wasn’t made lightly, adding that it has taken a long time for Nissan and Renault to become aligned on the project.

Hopefully the Leaf endure few more years worth of beatings.

[Image: Nissan]

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13 Comments on “Renault and Nissan Will Share EV Platform, Postponing the Leaf’s Future...”

  • avatar

    Disappointing news. But, outside of California and a few other states, there is no competition. I won’t see a Bolt at a Midwest dealer in ’17 and maybe not ’18. Same goes for Model 3. Is Mitsubishi going to make a better Miev?

    • 0 avatar

      You certainly should see a Bolt at a Midwest dealer in ’17. Here’s an update this morning, posted at :

      the company gave us a mini-update on the new roll-out schedule for the Bolt EV:

      EVs are currently in transit to California and Oregon markets and are arriving this month
      a number of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States including New York, Massachusetts and Virginia will see first deliveries this winter
      Bolt EVs will arrive to more dealerships in additional major metro markets throughout the first half of 2017
      nationwide at certified dealers mid-2017
      Once again using our ‘OEM secret-decoder ring‘, we assume that when GM states the nationwide release of the Chevy Bolt EV will be mid-2017, what they actually mean is that the 2018 model year Bolt EV (expected to arrive around August of 2017) will be a national product offering.

  • avatar

    I’m still thinking that if I had kids in high school or local college, a massively depreciated Leaf would be hard to resist. My oldest grandkid is 5 years away from a license, might still be a strategy then.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Carlos is mistaken that range is not an issue, because EV filling time is slow, even with ‘fast DC’ chargers. There is a big difference between topping off every 100 miles vs every 200 miles.

    Nissan is basically ceding the EV market to others with these delays.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly, I would not be buying any gasoline powered car that I’d have to refill every 107 miles either no matter how many gas stations there are.

      200 mile range in adverse conditions, i.e. low temps, is the minumum, 250 is much better for universal acceptance by rational people that realize A) they can re-top-up in their own garage every night and B) are willing to use their other car or rent one for the few times a year that they need to exceed that range.

      The charging infrastructure will come once a critical mass of cars has been reached. There is ZERO reason why my neighborhood Shell station can’t add a dozen fast-chargers at one side of the lot. I think the oil companies will (should) be the ones doing this, since they already have the locations and the land in place. The only cost is the actual charging devices and running the power lines, which is a huge advantage over anyone new starting out. There is no reason why the signs can’t add a cost quote line for KWH right below the Regular and Super Unleaded ones…

  • avatar

    Since I feel like the Bolt is going to be a home run, the Leaf/Zoe will need to go up to near mid-size to be competitive.

  • avatar

    Recharging won’t solve the problem because the “fast” 20 minute recharges only give you 80% (at best) of total capacity, and a used Leaf probably already has lost 10 to 20% of capacity due to natural degradation. So assume new range of 100 miles that has degraded to 80 miles after 5 years, and then you get 80% of that in a fast recharge – which means 64 miles before you have another 20 minute wait (assuming there is a free plug available when you need it). And even that 64 mile case assumes you don’t use the A/C or heater or lights or drive at highway speeds or carry a full-load, and don’t have freezing or very hot temps, which can lose you another 40% of total range and are down to less than 40 miles before empty – assuming you are able to tolerate the last few miles with the low range warning message.

  • avatar

    Used Leafs are killing the new Leaf business, but I don’t think the used-car industry knows what to do with them.

    Autotrader is full of Leafs, all priced around $8k, regardless of age, mileage, or trim level. It makes no sense relative to how gasoline used cars are priced.

    Now, if $4k would buy me a Leaf with a solid 50 miles of range, I could justify one for commuter duty, but at $8k, I might as well commute in what I have.

  • avatar

    “it has taken a long time for Nissan and Renault to become aligned on the project.”
    I would hope so. Nissan agreeing to shrink the Leaf so Renault can find a non-US applicable answer to fit both brands should take even longer. The Leaf was a cool thing, it’s dead now.

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