This 304-hp, 502-lb-ft EV prototype is much more than a souped-up Nissan Leaf
In case the all-wheel-drive system didn’t clue you in, the six-spoke rally wheels should do the trick
This curious high-performance, all-wheel-drive Nissan Leaf is probably not something we can expect to see in the near-future Leaf lineup (though Nissan took a few steps in that direction with the Leaf Nismo, at least for the Japanese market). But if you think of it as an unusually well-finished test mule for an upcoming high-performance EV, it starts to make a lot more sense.
The rather unromantically named electric all-wheel-control technology test car started out as a Leaf e+, but the big addition is an additional EM57 electric motor in the rear—the usual method of fitting all-wheel drive in an EV. Total maximum output is now 227 kW (304 hp), and maximum torque is an impressive 680 Nm (502 lb-ft). For comparison’s sake, the output of the typical FWD Leaf e+ is 214 hp and just 250 lb-ft of torque.
Overall dimensions are the same as a stock Leaf, with the exception of width: At around 72 inches wide, it’s grown about 1.6 inches courtesy of overfenders at every wheel opening. Gone are the the energy-efficient 215/50R-17 Michelin Energy Saver tires; the prototype has 215/55R-17s up front and 235/50R-17s at the rear. They’re wrapped around six-spoke, bronze-color rally wheels that wouldn’t look out of place on an R30 Skyline.
The car’s all-wheel-control technology varies torque output of the front and rear motors independently (remember, multimotor EVs don’t vary torque distribution the same way an all-wheel-drive internal combustion-powered drivetrain would) and also controls braking at all four wheels to aid cornering.
According to senior VP for Nissan research and advanced engineering Takao Asami, ”The new electric-drive four-wheel-control technology now being developed integrates Nissan’s electric propulsion and 4WD control technologies with our chassis control technology to achieve a huge leap in acceleration, cornering and braking performance, on par with the latest sports cars.”
Based on our experience with various Teslas, and more recently the Porsche Taycan, this checks out. The combination of an electric motor’s near-instant torque, coupled with precise computer control of a car’s motor modules, with no mechanical bits like drive shafts or transfer cases between them, enable EVs to perform and handle in an almost otherworldly manner.
Basically: If you thought driving the Nissan GT-R felt like playing a video game in the best possible way, just wait until you slide into a high-performance all-wheel-drive EV.
What’s not addressed here is range—understandable, given that this is a performance technology test bed. The Leaf e+ upon which this car is based gets a stated 226 miles of range from its 62-kW battery pack, but increased performance courtesy of another battery module no doubt cuts into range substantially.
However, the test bed’s rear motor does also use regenerative braking, which should help recover some additional energy when slowing down. One other benefit that we quite honestly hadn’t even considered: Nissan claims the addition of rear regen improves ride comfort by reducing vehicle pitch and dive under braking.
With automakers rolling out EV models at an unprecedented pace, we likely won’t have to wait too long to see an all-wheel-drive system rolled out on a production-bound Nissan—though what form it takes remains to be seen. A practical all-season hatchback seems probable … but we, for one, think those sporty Datsun 510-inspired Nissan IDx concepts still look fresh.