On Wednesday, Nissan released details about the 2013 US Nissan LEAF, the long-awaited US produced version of Nissan's electric car, and that production had begun at Nissan's factory in Smyrna TN. The newest Nissan LEAF will come in three models, and have charging time (faster on-board charger), efficiency and driving range improvements similar to the 2013 Japanese Nissan LEAF, whose details were announced last November.
The most important change is that the LEAF is now assembled in the United States at Nissan's Smyrna, Tenn. assembly plant, with battery production taking place right next door in the country's largest lithium-ion automotive battery plant. Previously all LEAF production had been in Japan, and then imported into the countries where it's sold. For the 2013 model year, Nissan's goal was to start production on the continent where the LEAF is sold, with North America production occurring in Tennessee, and European production occurring in the UK.
Nissan has not released prices of the 2013 US Nissan LEAF, but Nissan management has said one reason for localizing LEAF production is to avoid paying import duties and to get on the right side of currency exchange rates. It's expected this will allow Nissan to lower the price for the 2013 US Nissan LEAF. Just by direct translation of the lowest priced Japanese 2013 LEAF price to US dollars, the entry level 2013 Leaf S price would be $31,500, with federal tax incentives lowering that to $24,000, with the California price dropping to $21,500 thanks to the CVRP program. That's well below prices of the Toyota Prius.
As for lower prices, the LEAF model line-up does include a less expensive option. The three models are: S, SV and SL. Here are some of the differences.
LEAF S grade: This is the new, inexpensive, model. 16-inch steel with full-wheel covers, with Bridgestone Ecopia 205/55R16 all-season tires. Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System.
LEAF SV grade: 5-spoke 16-inch aluminum-alloy, with Bridgestone Ecopia 205/55R16 all-season tires. Nissan Navigation System with NavTraffic (SiriusXM subscription required, sold separately). Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System. 6.6 kW onboard charger that reduces 220V charging time nearly in half to approximately four hours for a full charge.
LEAF SL grade: 5-spoke 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, with 215/50R17 Michelin Energy Saver all-season tires. Nissan Navigation System with NavTraffic (SiriusXM subscription required, sold separately). Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System. LED automatic on/off headlights and fog lights. Solar panel rear spoiler. 6.6 kW onboard charger that reduces 220V charging time nearly in half to approximately four hours for a full charge. CHADEMO Quick Charge Port - allows charging to 80 percent capacity in 30 minutes at public DC fast charging stations.
The LEAF continues to have a 24 kilowatt-hour battery pack located in the floor space, giving optimum available space and weight distribution. It's driven by a 80kW AC synchronous motor with 107 horsepower and 187 lb-ft of torque. The charging port now has a light, and a cable lock.
Rear cargo space has increased to 24 cubic feet, and 30 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down. A new "Eco route" feature added to the available navigation system that includes suggested power-saving alternative routes. A new Google Places based search function allows drivers to look for area restaurants, shops and other points of interest, while looking at reviews from Google's POI database. The infotainment system includes a Pandora link for the iPhone.
A wider range of options are available including leather seats, leather steering wheel, a BOSE sound system, and the Around View® Monitor system, which helps provide a virtual 360° view of objects around the vehicle.
Seven exterior colors are available for 2013: Brilliant Silver, Metallic Slate, Super Black, Cayenne Red, Glacier White, Pearl White and Blue Ocean.
Said Nissan Division Vice President and General Manager Al Castignetti: "The refinements and enhancements for 2013 hit at the core of customer requests during LEAF's first two years – available features providing quicker charging, improved range expectations and the ability to fine-tune the equipment levels to exact owner needs, whether they desire fewer standard features for an even more affordable car or more luxury amenities like leather-appointed seating and premium audio."
The 6.6 kilowatt on-board charger will provide a much needed usability boost, because a faster on-board charger improves effective range. The CHADEMO fast charge port is potentially a range boost for the same reason, if the charging station network operators were to begin wide installation of CHADEMO charging stations. However, the SAE DC Fast Charge system has become the recognized standard which may act to limit availability of CHADEMO stations.
Several 2013 LEAF efficiency improvements go together to decrease energy required while driving, that Nissan claims will improve the EPA range estimate. The EPA certification is not yet finished, and Nissan expects to announce these numbers shortly. Efficiency improvements include an optional hybrid heating system improving cold weather performance while consuming less energy; a "B" drive mode that increases regenerative braking during deceleration; refined aerodynamics; and improved energy management.
The Japanese 2013 LEAF had a 14% jump in electric driving range due to these efficiency improvements. If the same percentage increase is maintained for the US 2013 LEAF, the American 2013 Leaf the electric driving range will be 83 miles.
Under an expanded New Electric Vehicle Limited Warranty, Nissan will protect against capacity loss in LEAF batteries that fall below nine bars, of the available 12 bars displayed on the vehicle's battery capacity gauge, for the first five years or 60,000 miles in the United States, whichever comes first.
"When we launched the Nissan LEAF two years ago our desire was to offer surprising acceleration performance and a quiet, refined interior with room for five adults and their cargo – all in a vehicle that is fully electric, produces zero carbon emissions and with a range that would satisfy the daily needs of most drivers," said Castignetti. "Having met and exceeded those original goals, we've now enhanced nearly every aspect of LEAF for 2013 – extending its appeal to an even wider audience just as we've started local assembly and local production if our batteries and electric motors."