Can you beLeaf it? Nissan's first EV turns 10

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Nissan Leaf.
Nissan Leaf.

• Nissan's Leaf was launched in 2010 and was one of the first mass-produced electric vehicles. 

• The first-generation Leaf went on sale in South Africa. 

• Since its debut 10 years ago, it has added a second generation in 2017 with more power and increased range.

10 years ago Nissan launched its rather awkward looking Leaf. Not only did it have a weird name, but it was unlike almost all cars on the road: it didn't have an engine. Instead it was powered by a battery that needed to be charged from a plug.

The world's first mass-market electric vehicle (EV) celebrates a decade of being around. Initially sales began in Japan, Europe and America but now the Leaf has blown to 59 markets across the world and more than half a million Leafs have been sold.

Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf

Nissan says the Leaf's battery technology is helping power homes and businesses, while broader Nissan EV innovation is at the heart of vehicle-to-grid energy management services. 

Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf

Here are several key milestones the Leaf has achieved in its life cycle.

2010: History is made: the world's first 100% electric car for the mass market

Nissan says its vision was to tackle urbanisation and industrial development by building a car that emits no carbon dioxide but is still loads of fun to drive.

Unique features allowed drivers to use their cellphones to check the car's battery level or manage air conditioning remotely. A 24 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery powered the first model. Fully charged, it had a range of 200 kilometres, according to the carmaker. 

WATCH | A quick, quiet drive in the electric Nissan Leaf

Nissan worked with governments, municipalities and electric power companies to promote electric vehicles and develop an extensive charging infrastructure. When the Leaf was first arrived Japan had about 200 CHAdeMO1-standard quick chargers. Today, there are more than 30 000 of these chargers around the world.

Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf.

Accolades galore

The Leaf became the first electric car to win a string of prestigious awards including "European Car of the Year 2011", "World Car of the Year 2011" and "Japan Car of the Year 2011-2012".

2012: Game changer: A car that powers your home

Two years after introducing the Leaf, Nissan became the first company in the world to unveil a system that lets customers share power between their homes and cars. With Vehicle-to-Home (V2H) system, Leaf owners could store energy in their car battery and feed it back to their homes whenever they wanted. They could charge the car's battery when demand and rates were low and use it around the house during peak times.

At the same time, the Leaf began to make a difference during natural disasters that interrupt electricity supplies. It served as an emergency power supply on wheels, which could also store energy where needed.

Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf (MotorPress)

2012: First upgrade boosts range to 228km

The company added improvements to the electric powertrain, which gave the car more power and extended its range to 228km.  The volume was reduced by 30% and mass by 10%. Reduced power consumption also enabled new perks, like heated seats and steering wheel.

In 2014, Nissan sold the 100 000th Leaf.

2015: Second upgrade adds more tweaks and even greater range

Battery improvements began to accelerate. The Leaf got a 30kWh battery and a range of 280km. Even with the added capacity, the new battery could be charged to 80% in the same time it took to charge its predecessor.

The update also included new safety technologies. These included Intelligent Emergency Braking, which uses a front camera to detect vehicles and pedestrians, says Nissan.

Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf (MotorPress)

2017: Breakthrough moment: Second-generation LEAF offers 400km range, e-Pedal and ProPILOT technology

In 2017, the second-generation Leaf made its debut and introduced technologies like the e-Pedal for one-pedal driving and ProPILOT advanced driver assistance.

A new electric powertrain increased power output by 38% to 110kW and torque by 26% to 320Nm. The new lithium-ion battery had 67% more energy density than the 2010 model and offered a range of 400km.

In early 2018, 300 000 Leafs were on the roads worldwide.

2018: Beyond mobility: Nissan Energy offers new ways to use the LEAF

Through smart storage and charging, the car could better share energy with a home or a business. The Nissan Energy Home, a demonstration of Nissan Energy's work and ideas, was unveiled at the Nissan Global Headquarters Gallery in Yokohama.

The carmaker developed systems to reuse and recycle old batteries. 4R Energy, a Nissan's affiliate, opened a plant in the town of Namie, Futaba District, Fukushima Prefecture in northeastern Japan, which focused on re-using EV lithium-ion batteries.

nissan leaf,nismo,rc,
Image: MotorPress

Blown away - lLeaf Nismo RC

Following a study based on the original Leaf, and to show how much untapped potential lay in electrically powered cars, Nissan created the Leaf Nismo RC (Racing Competition).

Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf

The first-generation Nismo RC was built in 2011 with the same battery, motor and inverter used in Leaf production cars. They were installed in the center of the vehicle to create a rear-wheel-drive system.

The second-generation Nismo RC, came in 2018. It was revamped and given twin motors, four-wheel drive and an aggressively-styled body. The lithium-ion battery and inverter used technologies from the second-generation Leaf, with the motor producing 240kW of power and 640Nm of torque.

2019: A new arrival: The top-end Leaf e+

A new electric powertrain gave the Leaf e+ a more powerful motor and extended range. Its 62kWh battery had 55% more capacity. This change pushed the car's range to 458km.

By 2019, more than 400 000 customers around the globe had bought a Leaf.

nissan leaf,nismo,rc,
Image: MotorPress

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