Nissan’s electric Leaf was not available in all 50 states until recently. However, U.S. dealers manged to move 9,700 units in 2011. The 2013 U.S. model begins production at the Smyrna, Tenn., facility possibly as early as December. The coming model will feature a whole slew of new upgrades to tempt the buyer.
Responsive to customer feedback
Mark Perry, Nissan’s director of product and advanced planning, told Detroit News that the proposed changes are all in response to customer feedback. The revamped Leaf will feature a darker interior trim, leather upholstery and a more efficient heater system.
Leather for the less ‘green’
In the past, Nissan has used recycled fabric to cover Leaf seats in an effort to stay green. However, Perry says some customers have been asking for a leather option, which is an available choice for the rival Chevrolet Volt. Therefore, Nissan also will give customers that choice in 2013.
A darker ride
Currently, the Leaf only comes with clean-looking, light-hued plastic interior fixtures. Some customers have expressed a desire for a darker finish inside. Nissan is providing that as an option, as well.
Efficient heater could add miles
Heaters have been problematic in electric vehicles because they draw so much power and drastically reduce the range of the vehicle. The 2013 Leaf, says the automaker, will feature a new, more efficient heating system that may deliver more miles in cold weather.
“You may not see much change on the EPA rating, but in cold-weather conditions you may see 20 to 25 miles of improvements.”
In optimal conditions, the current Leaf, when fully charged, has a range of 75 miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Bringing the heat
Nissan seems serious about keeping its customers warm. The automaker added heated seats and steering wheel to the 2012 model, as well as a rear climate-vent.
Assembled on US soil
The current version of the Leaf is assembled in Oppama, Japan. But the automaker hopes to improve U.S. availability and, consequently, sales of the new Leaf by assembling it domestically. The Smyrna, Tenn., plant is being retooled for the production. The EV’s lithium-ion battery packs will also be made in Tennessee in a nearby facility. A separate plant in Decherd, Tenn., will start making the Leaf’s electric motors in early 2013.
Unconfirmed start date
According to Detroit News, the Smyrna plant could take over production of the 2013 Leaf as early as December. However, Motor Trend reported that Nissan spokesman Brian Brockman could not confirm the December time frame for production to begin.