Contrary to popular belief, owners of the Nissan Leaf are not all tree-huggers. In fact, many owners of the world’s best-selling electric vehicle are more likely to wear Piloti driving shoes than Birkenstocks—and are keen to mod their Leaf for better performance and cooler looks.
Thanks to the platform that the Leaf shares with several other Nissan vehicles, it’s easy to enhance aerodynamics, braking, suspension, and lighting. Here are a few DIY’s that any EV-Gearhead can accomplish.
The Nissan Leaf is already a slippery vehicle with a drag coefficient of 0.32, but adding modified front and rear cowlings and side skirts; reducing the size of the radiator opening, or adding solid wheel disk covers can sharpen the way the small electric car slices through the air.
The Nissan Leaf is based on the Nissan B platform that is used by many Nissan and Renault cars. That means there are a wide variety of shocks, springs, and sway-bar components designed for other B platform cars that will bolt right into the Leaf. The more popular suspension mods are marketed for the Nissan Juke, Cube, and Altima.
Some enterprising Leaf owners have even taken air bag adjustable suspensions designed for the Juke and adapted them to the Leaf.
Nissan has standardized mounting hardpoints for braking systems in the majority of its vehicles sold worldwide. Larger brakes from other Nissan or Infiniti cars can bolt right in. This common mounting strategy also applies to brake disc rotors, so adding larger rotors is easy too. The most popular brake upgrades for the Leaf come from the Nissan FM platform like the Nissan Z or the Infiniti G cars.
A great and easy upgrade to the Leaf’s lighting is to replace the headlights with LED conversion bulbs. These bulbs are Plug-N-Play. Interior lights can also be easily replaced with LEDs.
Furthermore, changing from Halogen to LED headlights is a much beneficial upgrade which adds to the looks as well as much brighter lighting and energy saving.
Trailer Hitch & Racks
Okay, hear us out; you aren’t going to be towing anything. You can buy several Class 1 trailer hitches for the LEAF that have a maximum tongue weight of 150 to 200 pounds, which is perfect for hauling around you another green form of transportation: a bicycle. You’ll impress all of your friends with your dedication to the zero-emission lifestyle. It’s also really nice to have a bicycle when the battery runs out.
Nissan’s wheel bolt pattern is the same for all cars and offers a wide variety of sizes and offsets. Owners who upgrade their brakes usually increase the size and width of the wheels as well. The most popular wheel enhancement for the LEAF is with wheels designed for the Nissan Juke or Cube, but it is not unusual to see Leafs with wheels from Infiniti cars. When choosing wheels for the Leaf, make sure that the offset of the wheel is not too great to avoid the tire and wheel rubbing in the wheel well.
The quickest way to get better handling out of a Leaf is to equip it with wider and stickier tires. Tests show that equipping a LEAF with competition or performance tires enables it to pull almost 1G in lateral acceleration on a skidpad.
But beware: the other side of great handling with sticky tires is decreased battery range. The more friction that the car has to overcome, the more energy it needs to do that, which equates to shorter distances between charges.
Unfortunately, tweaking or enhancing the Leaf’s electric motor or transmission is not available to the causal DIY’er today. The motor, transmission, and its accompanying software are pretty much closed systems, with Nissan unwilling to open its kimono to allow owners to improve performance.
But it’s not the same for battery upgrades. As the Gen one and two ZEO/AZEO Nissan warranties are now over in most destinations, upgrades to larger and more powerful battery packs are happening with the use of donor packs from Gen three 40/62 kWh packs.
Some contents and pictures are from Gary Lieber / eBay Motoring