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Upgraded Nissan Leaf Due in December

Nicer interior, better heater – and up to 25 miles more range.

by on Mar.20, 2012

Nissan plans some significant improvements - including better cold weather range -- for the 2013 Leaf.

Nissan will be updating its now year-old Leaf late in 2012, upgrading the cabin, adding a more efficient heater and – sometime likely to matter most to buyers of the battery-electric vehicle – adding as much as 25 more miles of range in cold weather.

That’s a particularly significant development.  Lithium-ion batteries like the same sort of temperatures humans do and don’t perform much better in cold weather – especially when those humans in the cabin turn on the Leaf’s electric heater.

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Even before the updated 2013 Nissan Leaf hits market around December the maker is expecting to double U.S. sales.  They averaged around 1,000 a month during the latter months of 2011 – though demand actually plunged during the first two months of 2012, to 676 in January and 478 in February.  But the maker is looking to reach 2,000 a month by summer, according to a Detroit News interview with Nissan’s chief U.S. product planner Mark Perry.

Spokesman Dave Reuter confirmed the maker expects to double volume numbers in a separate interview with TheDetroitBureau.com.

“The Nissan LEAF will feature several enhancements for the 2013 model in line with our quest to continuously improve our model range,” said Reuter. “We’ll talk more about the specifics of these product updates in the coming months. The 2013 Nissan LEAF will be produced in Smyrna, Tenn., for the US market beginning in December.”

But based on the News’ conversation with Perry, the 2013 upgraded Leaf will deliver a number of enhancements including the addition of leather seats and overall improvements to its electrical system.  That covers everything from the cabin heater to the driveline’s power electronics.

Those can be immense drains on a battery, especially in cold weather, where a heater alone might reduce range by as much as half.  Under ideal conditions, Nissan has said the existing version of the Leaf will get as much as 100 miles per charge on the highway.  The EPA has rated it at 73 miles in the combined City/Highway cycle.

Even without any planned changes to the 24 kilowatt-hour battery pack, Nissan is hoping to get as much as 20 to 25 miles more per charge. That could help address the ongoing concerns about so-called “range anxiety” that many studies suggest have limited demand for battery-based vehicles.

“You may not see much change on the EPA rating, but in cold-weather conditions you may see 20 to 25 miles of improvements,” the News quoted planning boss Perry.

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