Nissan Tries to Make the Brake Pedal Obsolete in Next-gen Leaf

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

What’s an e-Pedal? No, it’s not some dorky electric bicycle built by Ford, though that scenario doesn’t sound far fetched.

As the steady decline of manual transmission availability brings the three-pedal lifestyle ever-closer to oblivion, the e-Pedal is Nissan’s way of sending the two-pedal setup a step closer to obsolescence. Will cars in the heady, electrically powered future contain just one pedal? Maybe. Maybe not. But starting late this year, one Nissan model will allow drivers the choice of accelerating and braking with just one pedal.

Details of the second-generation Leaf, due for a September 6th reveal, have trickled out of Nissan ever since it realized the kind of buzz an automaker can generate by going the Dodge Demon route. Oh, there’ll be a shapely new body, semi-autonomous driving capability, even headlights! After languishing on the market as rivals passed it by, the increasingly outdated EV also adds a far greater range for its second generation.

Now, Nissan promises a brake pedal designed to gather dust. The brand’s new e-Pedal, found in the 2018 Leaf, allows — with the push of a button — the ability to speed up, slow down, and hold a stop via the pedal on the right.

Minus the sporting abilities of high-zoot models, it’s hardly wowing driving an EV. The vehicles creep forward when in Drive, just like an automatic-equipped internal combustion model. At speed, an EV loses momentum when the driver eases off the accelerator, albeit more quickly, thanks to regenerative coasting. In some cases, such as in the defunct Tesla Roadster, the braking effect while coasting is extreme. For the next Leaf, Nissan ups the regeneration to the degree that it can stop the car on its own, and quickly, after lifting off the “gas.”

Of course, that’s if the driver chooses to. The boring old brake pedal still exists for those weirded out by the trick e-Pedal, but it’s clear where Nissan’s enthusiasm lies. Perhaps even its intentions.

While the Leaf’s new do-everything pedal is indeed an advancement, it’s hardly revolutionary. It simply goes further than past efforts. Chevrolet’s all-electric Bolt offers enhanced braking effect when the transmission is in Low, and a steering column-mounted “regen paddle” goes a step further, bringing the car to a stop in certain situations. Of course, lifting off the accelerator is easier than holding down a paddle, and the Leaf’s setup hold the car at rest, even on hills.

“Drivers can cover 90% of their driving needs with the e-Pedal, making the process of driving more exciting,” the automaker stated in a release. “In heavy traffic and during city commutes, drivers will greatly reduce the need to shift from one pedal to the other, making your drive simpler and more engaging.”

One assumes the brake lights shine the moment drivers lift off the throttle while in e-Pedal mode. That’s likely the case, as General Motors saw some backlash from the Bolt’s brake lamps staying dark during heavy braking-coasting. Still, it remains to be seen whether the e-Pedal system activates the taillights earlier in the process, at a certain tipping point in braking effort, and whether the existence of an actual brake pedal ends up confusing drivers in emergency situations.

[Image: Nissan]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Shortest Circuit Shortest Circuit on Jul 21, 2017

    Mercedes did it first. The first-gen SBC-equipped cars (W211 E-Class, R230 SL and all Maybachs) had a function that was later deleted by a software update, but it would put the SBC into a mode where you could drive only by using the throttle. It was interesting, basically accelerating worked normally, and the speed with you lifted your foot from the accelerator determined how hard the car would brake. I did not see much use for it in normal circumstances, but in stop-and-go traffic I thought it to be a godsend, first you aren't blinding the following traffic with brakelights, second with minimal practice you could absolve the nicest stops.

  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on Jul 21, 2017

    At least the kids growing up with a Power Wheels vehicle will find it very familiar!

  • Duke Woolworth Weight 4800# as I recall.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X '19 Nissan Frontier @78000 miles has been oil changes ( eng/ diffs/ tranny/ transfer). Still on original brakes and second set of tires.
  • ChristianWimmer I have a 2018 Mercedes A250 with almost 80,000 km on the clock and a vintage ‘89 Mercedes 500SL R129 with almost 300,000 km.The A250 has had zero issues but the yearly servicing costs are typically expensive from this brand - as expected. Basic yearly service costs around 400 Euros whereas a more comprehensive servicing with new brake pads, spark plugs plus TÜV etc. is in the 1000+ Euro region.The 500SL servicing costs were expensive when it was serviced at a Benz dealer, but they won’t touch this classic anymore. I have it serviced by a mechanic from another Benz dealership who also owns an R129 300SL-24 and he’ll do basic maintenance on it for a mere 150 Euros. I only drive the 500SL about 2000 km a year so running costs are low although the fuel costs are insane here. The 500SL has had two previous owners with full service history. It’s been a reliable car according to the records. The roof folding mechanism needs so adjusting and oiling from time to time but that’s normal.
  • Theflyersfan I wonder how many people recalled these after watching EuroCrash. There's someone one street over that has a similar yellow one of these, and you can tell he loves that car. It was just a tough sell - too expensive, way too heavy, zero passenger space, limited cargo bed, but for a chunk of the population, looked awesome. This was always meant to be a one and done car. Hopefully some are still running 20 years from now so we have a "remember when?" moment with them.
  • Lorenzo A friend bought one of these new. Six months later he traded it in for a Chrysler PT Cruiser. He already had a 1998 Corvette, so I thought he just wanted more passenger space. It turned out someone broke into the SSR and stole $1500 of tools, without even breaking the lock. He figured nobody breaks into a PT Cruiser, but he had a custom trunk lock installed.