Turning Over a New Leaf

ImageNissan recently announced an updated version of its first generation Nissan Leaf electric vehicle (EV). This update to me, is more than just your standard car update, it signifies that Nissan is serious about EVs. You can read all about it the changes to the 2013 model here. This post is all about  highlighting what makes this update important.

Why you should care.

Leaf production is now 100% in the US, both battery and car are produced in TN. This is what is helping them offer the 2013 at a lower entry level cost than previous models. (The high price of the Yen was also a motivating factor.)

The new version will have increased range (no specifics yet) and a larger capacity charger, reducing charging times from 7 hours for a full charge to approx. 4 (using 220V). This is a big deal, because it goes a long way to changing how electric vehicle supply equipment (commonly referred to as chargers) infrastructure can be deployed.

With the 2013 model and optional 6.6 kWh charger, a 2 hour charge could get you roughly 50 miles of range. That makes current chargers at malls and even at restaurants more more appealing. It won’t completely change the landscape though, since the majority of the EVs on the road will still have the smaller capacity (3.3 kWh) charger.

Finally, Nissan is tweeking their warranty, which is retroactive to the first Leaf sold. The advanced lithium-ion battery pack carries an industry-competitive warranty of 8 years or 100,000 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.”

Other improvements worth caring about are eco-route guidance, which will provide drivers with the most efficient driving route , and a new B drive mode, which activates a “heavier” regen when slowing down, presumably bringing more charge to the battery. Combine both of those with a more accurate method of estimating actual mileage left, and you have a significantly improved driving experience.

The new Nissan Leaf also added options which signal to the world that the car is moving into general desirability and not just calculated efficiency driven by a distaste for oil consumption and environmental damage. The optional 7.0-inch display, Pandora® link for iPhone®, and Bose® 7-speaker premium audio system will make for a much nicer cabin, one that will finally include darker  interior colors which will no doubt help keep the interior clean.

The Leaf will also get a new heater, one that will heat the cabin using less energy than the current system. This was one of the biggest complaints of current Leaf owners. To understand why this is so important, consider that EVs don’t have an engine creating heat that can be used to draw heat from. So, the heater has to manufacture heat, which is a long and energy consuming process.

And Finally, something I think is actually pretty important, there will be an available 17 inch rim size. Why is this important? Because perception is everything, and eco-friendly cars (think Prius) tend to have small rims, which make them appear slow and under powered.  A 17 inch rim will change the profile of the Leaf, making it appear more aggressive.

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