The 2013 Nissan Leaf is slated to be built in Tennessee rather than Japan, as part of Nissan's strategy to build the Leaf on the same continent where it is sold (European Leaf's will be made in England, for example). Yesterday a Japanese news website suggests that the 2013 Leaf will have several welcome changes as well, including longer driving range.
Today's Nissan Leaf is rated for 73 miles driving range, however Leaf owners report having anywhere between 60 and 100 miles of usable range depending on how fast they drive. Actual driving range in electric cars is dramatically impacted by driving habits. This is true for gasoline cars as well, witness the effort in the 70's to lower the speed limit to reduce gasoline consumption, inspiring a famous Hagar song, but the effect is more noticeable for electric cars. This has to do with physics and the fact that it requires more energy to move at a higher speed.
If the report in SankeiBiz, a Japanese newspaper, is correct the 2013 Leaf will be certified by Japans officials with a 250 kilometer (155 mile) driving range, compared to the 200 kilometer (124 mile) certification for the 2011 and 2012 Leaf's. Japan's certification process is different than the EPA's and results in different driving range estimates than the EPA estimate. If we interpret this as a 25% improvement, this means the EPA would certify the 2013 Leaf with a 91.25 mile driving range.
This would put the 2013 Leaf ahead of other electric cars like the Coda (88 miles), Ford Focus Electric (76 miles), and Honda Fit EV (82 miles).
The range improvement is said to be a result of improved efficiency in the electric motor, and improved performance of the lithium-ion batteries.
Additionally the SankeiBiz report talks of a lower cost 2013 Leaf, but does not say how this would be accomplished. Presumably it will have a smaller battery pack and shorter driving range. Among the competition is the Mitsubishi i-MiEV which has a smaller battery pack, shorter driving range, and lower cost. There have been over 100,000 i-MiEV's sold worldwide to the 30,000 Leaf's.
Finally the SankeiBiz report talks of stylistic changes, but again does not explain what those would be. There are a significant number of people claiming the Leaf is ugly. While you can never please everyone it will be interesting to see what, if anything, Nissan does to address that complaint.
It's already known that the 2013 Leaf will have an improved heating system that will improve the efficiency of the cabin heating. There will also be an option for leather seats and other changes on the interior.
The biggest functional improvement that's known for the 2013 Leaf is the option to have a 6.6 kilowatt charging system. A faster charger gives an electric car owner more flexibility for when and where and how far they can drive.
The scuttlebut opinion is that another change coming with the 2013 Leaf is a lower price, due to domestic manufacturing of the car. Nissan has not confirmed anything about the price.
It is reasonable to expect a few changes for the 2013 Nissan Leaf, just as there were a few for the 2012 Leaf. If the reported changes are accurate, a significantly longer driving range and faster charger would make the Leaf a much better more usable car. That would mean Nissan is likely to keep this news very secret until the company is ready if only for the risk of spooking buyers mulling a purchase today.