Nissan made two electric vehicle announcements today: the availability in Japan of an enhanced Leaf model and a reduction in use of rare earth metal usage in its electric motors.
Updated Nissan Leaf available in Japan
The second iteration of the Leaf, including a more affordable "S grade" Leaf, offers some new enhancements and equipment, with a 228km of range achieved at full charge (JC08 mode). Nissan says the new version is now available at Nissan dealers across Japan.
The S Grade model is in addition to the G and X Grade models. Nissan claims there are no performance sacrifice with the new S grade.
Among several new enhancements for the new LEAF are driving range of 228km at a full charge, enhanced regenerative braking performance and a power-saving heating system. A weight reduction of about 80kg is achieved, compared to previous model, by having a combined powertrain unit, integrated functions, streamlined battery module and case structure, and use of lighter parts.
Additions to the car's IT functions include "Stop-off charging spot guidance" function, "Power-saving route guidance" function and "Battery capacity at a destination forecast" function - an attempt to mitigate potential range anxiety. There also new ways to search for and locate charging spots by a "Charging spot availability information provision" function, "Quick charger location display" function and "Unavailable charging spot display" function.
At present, there are approximately 400 sales outlets in Japan equipped with quick chargers, which Nissan say they will expand to 700 outlets in Japan by end of fiscal year 2012. When the expansion is completed, one-third of dealers will be able to offer quick charging service.
New Nissan Ev Motor Cuts Rare Earth Use By 40%
Nissan has developed an electric motor magnet that cuts use of a rare earth element, dysprosium (Dy), by 40%. The new motor will be applied in future vehicles, including the updated Nissan LEAF EV, and future hybridelectric vehicles (HEV)
According to Nissan, "using a neodymium-based (NdFeB) magnet, motors used in electric vehicles need to be compact in size with high performance. Dysprosium is added to neodymium magnets to strengthen heat resistance. In conventional electric motors, dysprosium is uniformly added to the neodymium magnet, but the new motor - developed in a jointly with suppliers - features a grain boundary diffusion process. The new process distributes dysprosium around each crystal grain's boundary, which improves the magnet's heat resistance while maintaining high performance levels. The result of this process is a 40% reduction in dysprosium use while still keeping heat-resistance levels comparable with conventional electric motors."
Dysprosium is a very rare element and its occurrence is geographically limited, according to Nissan.
Nissan plans to adopt the grain boundary diffusion process for its hybrid motors, with the goal to ultimately achieve zero usage of dysprosium in other components as well. In addition to dysprosium, Nissan says it aims to reduce the usage of rare earth elements such as Cerium (Ce) and Lanthanum (La) that are found in catalytic exhaust gas components and in cast iron.