The Japanese car maker Nissan is stepping up the game – ahead of Geely Holdings and other Asian automobile makers – in the electric car segment, with a massive upgrade or rather a reinvention of the Nissan Leaf model.
“Nissan is the first manufacturer to officially announce its intention of offering a mainstream intelligent EV (electric vehicle) in Thailand,” Antoine Barthes, President of Nissan Motor Thailand while confirmed to launch Nissan Leaf 2018 in Thailand.
In Malaysia, Edaran Tan Chong Motor (ETCM) also confirmed that the second-generation electric vehicle will be launched in Malaysia by 2018.
The new Nissan Leaf combines greater range with a dynamic new design and advanced technologies and is a direct competitor to the highly acclaimed Tesla Model 3.
The new Leaf comes with ProPilot technology, which allows single-lane autonomous driving. In July, the automaker offered a sneak peek of its latest effort to take on Tesla in the race to sell more advanced, mass-market self-driving electric vehicles.
While Tesla is expected to launch the Model 3 in the Asean by 2018 – the date it will start to roll the EV cars en-mass on US roads – Geely Holdings, the Proton shareholder has not revealed any plans for its electric vehicles in Malaysia.
Tesla is on a recruiting drive for its sales force in Malaysia, and in other Asean states, while Nissan which plans to launch the Leaf in the Asean region in 2018 will depend on its extensive dealership network.
The Leaf, its maker hopes, will be a killer blow to the Tesla Model 3 due to its affordable price tag.
In the US, the Leaf is priced at US$30,800 for its entry level model, and a basic version of the Tesla Model 3 is priced at US$35,000 before incentives.
But the Tesla has appears to have a longer range than the Nissan model and its self-driving models have been widely praised across the auto world sector.
The technology battle does not end with which car model is more reliable, it also borders on which model is more intelligent and what do the manufacturers offer in their basic models.
The new LEAF comes with what Nissan calls a revolutionary e-Pedal technology that will transform the way people drive.
It lets drivers start, accelerate, decelerate and stop by increasing or decreasing the pressure applied to the accelerator.
When the accelerator is fully released, regenerative and friction brakes are applied automatically, bringing the car to a complete stop.
The car holds its position, even on steep uphill slopes, until the accelerator is pressed again.
But where do the Geely models fit in the battle ground?
The Chinese car maker has a model that has beaten all the odds in China and is on sale in some European countries but at a price tag of €16,000.
It is the Zhidou D2 EV, a bare-basics city vehicle that is being delivered in record quantities (4,714 units in June 2017).
This vehicle is sold as a Quadricycle (Think Renault Twizy class), with the following specs: 12 kWh battery, 120 km range, 90 km/hr max speed, and all for some €16,000. And it is not a self-driving model.