A WHITE 2022 Nissan LEAF is shown charging in a garage after visiting a Nissan dealer.

We Don’t Be-LEAF It: A Look Into Nissan’s EV History

With gas prices soaring and electric vehicles becoming more popular, more and more manufacturers are starting to dabble into electric and hybrid vehicles. While Nissan currently only has two available types of electric vehicles, it is off to a decent start in getting itself more electric vehicles. With the addition of its second EV, it looks like your Nissan dealer may have more electric options in the future. Starting in 2010, Nissan was able to release what was the first affordable electric vehicle on the market: the Nissan LEAF. Since that time, Nissan has been able to update and change the LEAF to fit other needs, and it is looking to start releasing the Nissan Ariya in the near future. So what has changed about the Nissan LEAF throughout the years, and what can we expect to see in the Ariya?

The Nissan LEAF Arrives

As we mentioned earlier, the Nissan LEAF was the first electric vehicle to be affordable and mass produced. Having a vehicle that could be bought by most households really helped to jumpstart the zero-emissions movement and get it some extra traction. Since the 2010 release, Nissan has seen a lot of growth and change to make electric vehicles a better fit for their purpose of becoming a daily driver for buyers.

The 2011 LEAF was not broadly loved or accepted initially. While its efficiency was amazing at 99 MPGe, the range was abysmal. Drivers could only go 73 miles on a charge, and the LEAF took 12 hours to recharge its 24 kWh battery and be ready to go again. This first foray into the electric vehicle world was less successful than Nissan was initially hoping for, but it didn’t stop the brand from trying again to make the LEAF as amazing as it could be.

The 2013 version of the Nissan LEAF saw small gains in MPGe and range, making it slightly less stressful to drive. Even with its 115 MPGe, drivers were still not eager to take the LEAF any further than to town and back with its 75 miles of range. While the 2012s had two different trim selections, the LEAF still wasn’t meeting drivers’ needs yet, and Nissan knew it needed to up its game a little.

While 2014 didn’t see a ton of changes to the LEAF, improved battery technology increased the range to a whopping 84 miles. There was also an additional trim added to the LEAF lineup. Most buyers of the LEAF in these early years loved the LEAF for short trips, but they weren’t being purchased as daily drivers quite yet because of the short range and long recharge times.

A white 2022 Nissan LEAF and bronze Ariya are shown parked near the ocean.

Breaking 100 Miles

Finally, Nissan started to make some bigger changes with the LEAF. The standard 2016 was still only able to get 84 miles on a charge. However, a new 30 kWh battery was added as an option. With the larger powerpack, the LEAF could now travel 107 miles. While there was still a long way to go, 2016 saw the Nissan LEAF getting closer and closer to being a car that people would want to drive all the time.

The new battery proved such a big upgrade that the smaller battery was discontinued for the 2017 model year. While 23 additional miles on one charge may not seem like much, that extra twenty can be the difference between being able to drive to and from work, and it made a lot more people feel comfortable with the idea of driving an electric vehicle. This is the year that we would consider Nissan really first getting that success of creating an electric vehicle that is both affordable and practical for many drivers.

Since 2017 was kind of a laid-back release year, and there weren’t any super major changes to the LEAF, it’s no surprise that 2018 saw another massive leap ahead. Maybe Nissan was just sitting on all these improvements for a few years; who knows. Regardless, the 2018 model saw a complete redesign of the car and gave it a 40 kWh battery and another massive increase in range, going all the way up to around 151 miles! The initial 23 extra miles made a huge difference for drivers, so you can imagine that another 44 miles to the driving range is what really took the Nissan LEAF from being a great “run a quick errand” car to a car that was worth the wait in charge time.

200 Miles In a LEAF

Unlike their previous trend, Nissan didn’t sit and wait to release the next set of big changes for a few years. The brand got right to it with the 2019 model. The 2019 LEAFs added an optional 62 kWh battery with an incredible 226 miles of range. This was a massive improvement, and in just seven short years, Nissan was able to more than triple the LEAF’s range. It really goes to show how hard the engineers were working on getting the LEAF up to speed.

Most of the features of the 2019 model stayed for the 2020 release of the LEAF, including the driving range. However, like many other manufacturers, Nissan decided to start including its safety package as a standard feature with the 2020 LEAF’s releases. The 2021 LEAF saw no notable changes, which is probably due to all the craziness that happened in 2020. There just simply was not the same amount of time or resources to devote to improving the vehicles. We feel obligated to give Nissan a pass on this.

The 2022 LEAF got a couple of exterior and cosmetic upgrades that definitely make the LEAF look sportier. Other than that, 2022 didn’t see any huge changes to the LEAF, but that doesn’t mean that Nissan has hit its limits. In fact, the development of the LEAF slowed down because a new electric vehicle was about to be released.

A close up shows the driver aide headlight on a bronze 2022 Nissan Ariya.

Enter the Nissan Ariya

For over a decade, Nissans only electric vehicle has been the LEAF. While that has served the brand well and acted as a great learning opportunity for Nissan, we love that it is stepping out of its comfort zone and working on another electric vehicle. The all-new 2023 Nissan Ariya is going to have a range of up to 300 miles for some models. It’s going to have a couple different trims available that will allow drivers of all types and ages to find a vehicle that fits their needs. The Ariya is set to release this fall, and we are really excited to see how it compares in real life to the long-standing LEAF.

Since there has been a big push to utilize electric vehicles, we feel like it’s a great time for Nissan and other manufacturers to consider how they can make electric vehicles that are affordable for all and can work as well as any other car. Nissan has really got us all charged up and ready to go when it comes to its available electric vehicles. Both the LEAF and Ariya are incredibly competitive in the electric vehicle market right now regarding range, size, charging time duration, and MPGe. And when the market gets competitive like this, it means we drivers are about to start seeing incredibly high-quality vehicles hitting the streets and lots of our local dealerships.