(BBC) — Nissan has launched a longer-range version of its best-selling Leaf electric vehicle, as it fights growing competition in the electric car market.The new Leaf will run about 150 miles (240km) on a single charge, about 40 miles more than its previous model, the firm said.
But that still falls short of ranges offered by rivals Tesla and GM.Other updates include advances in autonomous driving technology and a more modern design.
The Leaf, the world’s best-selling electric car, is facing increasing competition in the fast-developing green car market, fuelled in part by tightening emissions standards around the world.
The new Leaf, on sale in Japan from October and elsewhere early next year, has a longer range thanks to a bigger 40 kilowatt hour battery.
Chris Lilly, content manager for the Next Green Car news site, said while the new model is not “groundbreaking” it should be more appealing to drivers.”It takes every element of the old Leaf and improves upon it, and adds a whole lot of new features,” he said.
Those improvements include parking assistance and single pedal driving.
One pedal controls starting, accelerating, decelerating and stopping, while the automated parking system will guide drivers into tricky spaces.
The model also automates single-lane highway driving.Prices will start at 3,150,360 yen (£22,220), Nissan said. The Japanese carmaker said it would offer higher priced model, with more power and range, next year.
How it compares
Competition in the electric vehicle market is intensifying as major automakers join specialised manufacturers to develop high-tech, low-emission cars.
“Electric vehicle technology is advancing rapidly – costs are falling quickly and range is improving,” said Professor David Bailey, an automobile expert at Aston Business School.
But despite boosting its range, rival models can go much further than Nissan’s latest offering.
The Tesla Model 3 can run at least 220 miles on a single charge and starts at $35,000 (£26,850), while General Motor’s Chevy Bolt – with a range of 238 miles – starts at about $38,000 (£29,150), according to the companies.
US automaker Tesla is one of the pioneers in the electric vehicle industry and despite recently releasing its cheapest model to date, it has traditionally catered to the premium end of the market.
The Nissan Leaf faces more direct competition from models including the Volkswagen e-Golf, BMW i3 and Hyundai’s Iconiq.
“The Leaf is not going to challenge Tesla,” Next Green Car’s Mr Lilly said. “But the Leaf has price and manufacturing capacity on its side.”
“You’re getting a lot less range but you’re paying a lot less,” he said.
Nissan was one of the first automakers to market an electric vehicle to the masses when it launched the first Leaf in 2010. The Leaf became the world’s biggest-selling, all-battery car, with more than 280,000 units sold.
Despite heavy investment, electric vehicles still represent only a fraction of conventional vehicle sales.
Just over two million electric vehicles were registered worldwide as of 2016, according to the International Energy Agency, just a slice of the more than 80 million vehicles sold last year.
One big opportunity is China. Automakers are jostling for a piece of the world’s biggest car market ahead of the introduction of new rules designed to fight pollution.
China wants electric battery cars and plug-in hybrids to account for at least one-fifth of its vehicle sales by 2025.