The 2011 Nissan Leaf, the world's first modern battery-electric car built in volume by a major automaker, is starting to hit its stride.

Now the evolution of the Leaf is getting clearer, as Nissan officials confirmed changes and updates to the car for the 2012 and 2013 model years.

More than 4,000 Leafs have been sold in the U.S. (the total at the end of June was 3,894). Nissan has promised it will fill all the orders it's received from buyers within its seven initial launch areas by the end of the summer, after which it will announce its next regions for Leaf sales--many on the East Coast.

2012 updates

All the cars sold to date have been 2011 models. The 2012 models will start arriving at Nissan dealers in late November, said Brendan Jones, director of Leaf marketing and sales strategy during an interview yesterday.

All 2012 Leaf vehicles sold in North America will have the "cold-weather package" fitted as standard. It includes the following equipment:

  • heated battery pack
  • heated front seats
  • heated steering wheel
  • heated external rear-view mirrors
  • rear heating/air-conditioning duct

2013 updates

2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010

2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010

Then, for 2013, the Leaf's onboard 240-Volt Level 2 charger will be upgraded to 6.6 kilowatts (from today's 3.3 kW), considerably reducing the time needed to recharge the lithium-ion battery.

Nissan's director of product planning, Mark Perry, had said in March that the charger would be upgraded "in a year or so."

Now Katherine Zachary, Nissan's senior manager of corporate communications, has confirmed that to mean for the 2013 model year.

That's right around the time that the first Nissan Leafs will roll off the assembly line in Smyrna, Tennessee. Though Nissan wouldn't discuss further changes, it's not unreasonable to expect other equipment updates with the advent of domestic production.

Pricing to come

Some analysts suggest that U.S.-built 2013 Leaf models will also come with a lower price, though that remains very much a rumor for the moment.

First 2011 Nissan Leaf delivered to buyer, San Francisco, Dec 2010, photo by Eugene Lee

First 2011 Nissan Leaf delivered to buyer, San Francisco, Dec 2010, photo by Eugene Lee

The Nissan Leaf is no longer the cheapest four-door electric car in the U.S. market; that honor now belongs to the smaller 2012 Mitsubishi 'i' minicar, at $27,990 before incentives.

A more important price competitor may be the compact 2012 Ford Focus Electric, which will reach dealers at the end of the year.

Nissan hasn't yet announced the price of the coming 2012 Leaf electric car, though it expects to do so within a few weeks, Zachary said.

While the 2012 Chevrolet Volt base price fell by $1,005, GM actually "de-contented" the second model year of the Volt, meaning an effective price increase for a 2012 Volt with identical equipment to the earlier year.

Very few Leaf buyers cross-shopped the Volt, according to Jones, so here's hoping that Nissan doesn't follow Chevy's model.


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