Nissan may have been one of the first automakers to offer a mass-production electric vehicle but it has yet to sample a range-extender engine. That will apparently change in 2016 as the Japanese brand will debut an all-new model to directly rival the Chevrolet Volt.
The Leaf has been performing reasonably well for Nissan, if not churning out massive sales numbers then at least creating positive brand recognition. Its egg-shaped EV was a sign of commitment to alternative energy platforms for those who couldn’t afford the Fisker Karma or Tesla Model S back in 2010. The Leaf recently got a battery upgrade, pushing its range from 84 miles to 107 in the U.S. and farther in Europe. While that keeps the compact EV relevant, it doesn’t make the car much more appealing to those who worry about using the car for longer trips, or who are anxious over insufficient charging infrastructure.
Chevrolet’s Volt, on the other hand, has become increasingly popular, as it allows consumers who were on the fence about going purely electric to “transition” to a range-extender model and benefit from close-range pure electric drives (the 2016 Volt can now travel up to 53 miles on electricity alone) without being forced to plot charging stations on a map to travel farther. Differing from hybrids or plug-in hybrids, the range-extender engine has no connection to the driving wheels and is utilized strictly as a generator.
Nissan’s deputy general manager, Yoshi Shimoida, clarified to Motoring that there will be “no engine” for the Leaf. “But in the future Nissan will add to the lineup of EV systems an engine that is only for generating energy,” he said.
Nissan compared its planned range-extender engine to the one in BMW’s i3 and said the model would be revealed in 2016. Related to this, the automaker revealed an autonomous EV called the IDS Concept at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, which should preview the next-generation Leaf.