Nissan prepares to reboot the original mass-market electric car

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Why it matters to you

The Nissan Leaf was one of the pioneers of the modern EV segment, and the next-gen car hopes to regain the top spot in the segment.

The Nissan Leaf offered buyers zero-emission driving at an affordable price well before Tesla became a household name. It’s no longer the newest electric car on the block, but that’s set to change next month when the Japanese company unveils the brand-new, second-generation Leaf. Here’s everything we know about it so far.

What will it look like?

The modern electric car was still in its infancy when Nissan developed the original Leaf, so a stand-out design was a must. Just look at it; it practically screams “I’m electric!” into a loudspeaker. Official teaser images suggest the second-generation model grows up by falling in line with the company’s newest design language. Up front, that means a chromed V-shaped grille and sharp, elongated headlights in lieu of the previous model’s bug eye-like ones. From the side, blacked-out C-pillars create the illusion of a floating roof. Out back, there are sharp boomerang-shaped LED headlights.

The pocket-sized Micra that is sold around the world and the two-year-old Sway concept both shed valuable insight into what the Leaf will look like. Its designers’ goals were to make the hatchback more aerodynamic in order to maximize range, and more stable on the highway to provide more sure-footed handling. The familiar two-box shape remains, but it was studied in a wind tunnel and given a more rakish look inspired by airplane wings.

What is it powered by?

What lies under the Leaf’s wind-cheating sheet metal is a major point of debate. Nissan hasn’t revealed any official technical specifications, so the only information we have comes from rumors, leaks, and various insiders who spoke to the press on the condition of anonymity.

It’s nearly certain that Nissan will offer at least two different battery packs, including one that will give the Leaf over 200 miles of range. The current car drives for up to 107 miles on a single charge. That is not nearly enough to compete against more modern electric cars like the Chevrolet Bolt, which offers nearly 250 miles of range, and the Tesla Model 3, which goes up to 310 miles if you spend enough money.

Crucially, the new Leaf will inaugurate Nissan’s ProPilot Assist technology. As its name loosely implies, it’s a suite of electronic driving aids designed to give the driver a hand when driving becomes tedious or dangerous. It doesn’t turn the Leaf into a full-on autonomous car; that’s still at least a couple of years away from becoming a reality. It can take over in stop-and-go traffic, according to Green Car Reports, and it’s capable of controlling acceleration, braking, and steering on single-lane highways when the right conditions are met.

Nissan will continue to improve its ProPilot Assist technology in the coming years. The software will soon be able to drive itself through an intersection in a busy city, and it will eventually gain the capacity of driving on its own while the driver sleeps, reads, or gets work done.

When can I buy one?

Intrigued? Stay tuned, the next-generation Nissan Leaf will make its debut online on September 5, and we’ll get our first glimpse of it a few weeks later during the biennial Frankfurt Auto Show. Nissan’s electric hatchback will be branded a 2018 model when it arrives in showrooms across the United States later this year or early next year. Pricing will start in the vicinity of $30,000 before government incentives are factored in.