2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010Enlarge Photo
While Nissan killed the Altima Hybrid, its sole U.S. hybrid vehicle, for 2012, the company has made a number of important upgrades to its Leaf battery electric car.
For 2012, the Nissan Leaf will include as standard heated front and rear seats, plus heated steering wheel and outside mirrors.
Perhaps most importantly, a battery-pack heater will be fitted to every model.
Heating the Leaf's lithium-ion battery pack while the car is plugged in to a recharging station will keep the battery closer its optimum temperature, reducing sluggish performance and range reductions observed by some Leaf drivers after recharging in cold locations.
The 2012 Leaf also now includes a rear duct to bring heated and cooled air to passengers riding in the rear seat.
Of the Leaf's two trim levels--the SV is the base model--the higher-end SL model is not scheduled to go on sale until the fall of 2012, more than a year hence.
2011 Nissan Leaf at quick-charging stationEnlarge Photo
When it arrives, it will include a Quick Charge Port--previously a $700 option--and also a photovoltaic solar panel on the roof spoiler that helps to charge the car's 12-Volt battery, which runs lights, accessories, and other electric equipment.
Additional features of the 2012 Leaf SL model include automatic headlights, fog lamps, and a cargo-bay cover.
No pricing was announced for the 2012 Nissan Leaf, though the 2011 model remains at $32,780 before any Federal, state, or local incentives.
Nissan USA spokesperson Katherine Zachary said that the company typically announces pricing much closer to the on-sale date, which in the case of the 2012 Nissan Leaf will be sometime this fall.