2013 Nissan Leaf: More Range, Cheaper Model, Report Says

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Headlight - 2012 Nissan Leaf 4-door HB SL

Headlight - 2012 Nissan Leaf 4-door HB SL

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The 2013 Nissan Leaf that will go on sale in January will be a slightly different car from the 2011 and 2012 models sold in the U.S. so far.

We already know the electric car will offer leather seats and a 6.6-kilowatt charger as options, along with a more efficient heating system.

Now a report from Japan suggests that Nissan will offer a 2013 Leaf with longer range, as well as a lower-cost model with a smaller battery pack (which could be restricted to sales in that country).

The improvement in usable range is attributed to improved performance from the battery's lithium-ion cells and a more efficient electric motor.

Today's Leaf is rated by the EPA at 73 miles of range. Owners report usable range of 60 to 90 miles in real-world use, depending on their speed, the outside temperature, and how much they use air-conditioning and/or heater.

A report in SankeiBiz, a Japanese newspaper, says the new Leaf model will offer more than 250 km (155 miles) of range--though that figure is undoubtedly based on the Japanese test cycle, which produces figures far more optimistic than the U.S. EPA tests do.

The current Leaf is rated on that same Japanese cycle at 200 km (124 miles) of range.

But the 25-percent improvement discussed in the news report could bring the U.S. range rating of the 2013 Nissan Leaf to something like 90 or 91 miles.

Lithium-ion battery pack of 2011 Nissan Leaf, showing cells assembled into modules

Lithium-ion battery pack of 2011 Nissan Leaf, showing cells assembled into modules

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If so, that would put the 2013 Leaf ahead of the Ford Focus Electric (76 miles), Honda Fit EV (82 miles), and Coda Sedan (88 miles) in rated range.

The less expensive 2013 Leaf with lower range may be limited to buyers in Japan, which has different tax subsidies and buyer incentives. Mitsubishi already sells a lower-range model of its i-MiEV electric minicar there.

The Sankei report also says that Nissan will "dramatically change the appearance" of the Leaf's design. In fact, we suspect the changes will be evolutionary updates rather than a completely new style.

Colin Lawther, Nissan's VP of engineering for Europe, said in April that when U.K. production of the 2013 Leaf starts early next year, it will have its styling "fine-tuned" to the tastes of European buyers.

Sankei reports that the changes to the Leaf were pulled forward a year, due to lower-than-expected global sales of the Leaf. Nissan Leaf sales in the U.S. have been flat this year, for a variety of reasons, as explained by the company's VP of sales.

Three Nissan Leafs

Three Nissan Leafs

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The 2013 model will have to produce far higher sales to justify Nissan's investment in Leaf assembly--and construction of a lithium-ion cell fabrication plant--in its factory in Smyrna, Tennessee.

U.S. assembly of the Leaf and its battery cells was funded, in part, by a $1.6 billion low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Energy. In the end, Nissan used only $1.4 billion of those loan proceeds.

Changes for the 2013 Leaf were predicted by Nissan executive Mark Perry as far back as 2010, well before the first Leaf was sold in December of that year.


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Comments (13)
  1. The slightly longer range is very cool. I can imagine that having a positive impact on sales, assuming the price doesn't increase.

    "it will have its styling "fine-tuned" to the tastes of European buyers." Is that code for saying it needs to be less fugly.

  2. Have a friend who works at the plant and he said they were going to start testing the lines in September to make sure all the parts fit together as they are supposed to :-)

    So hurry up and sell me one!

  3. It will be cool to have it made in the USA and even better if it is a couple of buck less expensive.

  4. This is what I've been waiting for! Can't wait to see the body style change. I so want to buy an affordable EV.

  5. John, good article and insite. I think there is going to be a lot more than incremental changes. Goshen has promised very significant increase in sales. While it would not be popular to state a much lower USA price for the Leaf, I believe Goshen is going to rock today's auto-OEMs to the core by dropping the price at least 20-25%! This will bring the Leaf's value proposition to the average buyer to very acceptable vs. today's totally unacceptable. Let's see what Nissan does!

  6. You're nuts if you think Nissan is actually going to reduce the price at all on the Nissan Leaf...especially when they are improving the range and and more standard features. Nissan can not and does not want to make the Leaf affordable for all at this point. Many potential EV buyers, like DAn above, will jump in with these improvements and the now proven reliability of Leafs(battery heat problem excepted). Nissan can only produce so many Leafs in the next couple years so dropping the price that much doesn't make sense.

    Nissan will likely keep the price exactly the same, which is sort of like reducing the price as inflation goes up a couple percent, and point out the lower long term lower operation costs of EVs in general. Carpool too

  7. Still no mentions of anything about the hot climate issues...

    Well, most of the European/Japanese market aren't that hot. Even most the US states aren't that hot. Maybe Nissan is taking a "lazy" approach to the problem when 90% of its market aren't hot enough to have battery capacity issues...

  8. The issue, as I see it, is that some people refused to believe Nissan's statements that their battery would degrade, and now want to force Nissan to give them new batteries.

    There are many different approaches to making batteries. You can make them cheap, and save money not using fancy liquid heating/cooling. Nissan was very up front about this. Nissan also refused to warranty battery performance.

    Chevy chose to use higher quality batteries and add thermal management. Then they went the extra step of limiting the initial use to 70% of the battery with this moving upward as the battery ages so the battery degradation will not be apparent to the user. Chevy warrants 80% range at 8 years. Volt costs more.

    They want Volt warranty at LEAF $.

  9. It's dissapointing to me as well that Nissan is not putting out more frequent updates on their findings and or plans regarding the battery loss issue. Surely they can understand that customers in every climate zone will have increased anxiety due to the obviously unknown range loss over time (since Nissans own quotes of 80% in 5 years now seems very optimistic) and more importantly the perception that Nissan seems to be willing to play hardball with the wording in their battery warranty (or lack there of) vs. making good on statements made by their spokespeople.

    @Roy- I think people did believe Nissans statements of battery degradation. It's just that the statements made quoted 20% loss after 5 yrs or 30% loss after 10 yrs.

  10. Roy,

    Many owners in hot climates see a reduction in capacity of more than 20% after 1 year. That is quite different from what Nissan PR had told them: 20% after 5 years. It's Nissan's own responsibility for setting these expectations. It is normal for these people to have trusted Nissan and it is fully understandable they feel misled.

  11. @Roy,

    I agree with your points. Since Leaf doesn't have Engine or the gas related components and complexity, why can't owners expect the Volt Warranty at Leaf's price? Don't you think if Nissan is truly "fully committed" to EVs, then it would have done it right.

    Tesla and Focus EV also manage the battery carfully...

  12. Guess that addresses 2 of the Leaf problems, range and looks. The third major problem would be price but the better Nissan solves the first 2 issues, the less of a problem the price issue becomes I guess. The change in looks will need to be rather more dramatic than evolutionary though...I think if the Leaf had looked like the Invitation concept, it wouldn't be in trouble as it currently is. let's hope it's all going to be enough to turn current anemic sales around.

  13. a very "non informative" article but at least we have a heads up that change is coming.

    as far the battery heat issues; Nissan is in a tough place. despite their warnings about degradation what we have now is people in one area that have caused great anxiety for people in nearly every part of the country. i know people with 25,000 miles on their cars with nearly negligible degradation who are just as upset as people with 14,000 miles and 20% degradation.

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