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2012 Nissan Leaf: More Car, but More Money

Higher price tag for winter package, quick charger, as battery car rolls into more markets.

by on Jul.19, 2011

The 2012 Nissan Leaf will deliver more car - but at a higher price tag.

With production finally ramping up, sales of the Nissan Leaf are on the rise and should grow even faster, in the coming months, as the maker expands the number of U.S. markets where the battery car is available.

But electric aficionados could be in for an unpleasant surprise, with the introduction of the updated 2012 Nissan Leaf.  The modified model will get new equipment, such as a winter driving package and a more powerful quick charger, but it will also cost more, the company today revealed.

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“Many enthusiastic consumers have eagerly anticipated ordering a Nissan LEAF of their own, and now we can make zero-emissions mobility a reality in more markets,” said Brian Carolin, senior vice president, Sales and Marketing, Nissan North America.

Leaf was initially available in seven states: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.  On Monday, July 25, the maker will add Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Nissan is expanding Leaf production - and availability.

Meanwhile, Carolin noted, the Japanese maker is also upgrading Leaf for 2012.  “In response to direct feedback from Nissan LEAF owners, the features that customers want most will come standard on the 2012 Nissan LEAF – including quick charging and cold-weather features.”

The latter package will include such things as seat heaters.  Studies show that motorists are less likely to turn the heater of a vehicle on full blast – which, in a battery car seriously degrades range – if they have heated seats.

As for the quick charger, the current Leaf’s built-in charger is a modest 3.3 kilowatt system, which requires almost 8 hours even on 220 volts.  For 2012, the top-line SL trim Leaf will get a Level 3 DC quick charge port that is capable of yielding an 80% charge in just 30 minutes.  It was previously a $700 option.  The downside is that there are only a handful of those 440-volt chargers available to the public right now.  But there are plans in the works to add hundreds of them around the country in the next several years.

Unfortunately, Leaf customers will have to wait until 2013 to get an upgraded Level 2 charger, which increases the built-in charger’s capacity from 3.3 to 6.6 kilowatts – about the same as the system that will be offered on the upcoming Ford Focus Electric and Ford C-Max battery-electric microvan.  That should reduce home charging times to under 4 hours.

The added features on the 2012 Nissan Leaf will drive the base price up by 7.4%, or $2,420, to $35,200.  The SL model will start at $37,250, compared with $34,570 for the 2011 version.  (Add another $850 for destination charges.)

For those who prefer to lease, Nissan will add $30 to the monthly fee, bringing the total to $369 for 2011.

The increased price tag for the 2012 Leaf will narrow the gap between the Nissan batter-electric vehicle and the plug-in hybrid most often seen as its chief competition.  The 2011 Chevrolet Volt carried an MSRP of $41,000.  For 2012, however, Chevy is cutting the base price to $39,995.

Competition will become even more intense in the upcoming model-year, however, as an assortment of new battery-based vehicles come to market, including the C-Max, Focus Electric, Toyota Prius Plug-in and the Mitsubishi i.  Formerly known as the iMiEV, the Japanese battery car will start at $27,990, though it will also be smaller than either the Volt or Leaf.

Qualified buyers will also be eligible for $7,500 in federal tax credits and additional incentives in more than a dozen states.

So far, Nissan had delivered more than 4,000 Leaf sedans to U.S. motorists.

Nissan May Delay Launch of U.S. Leaf Production

But maker sees upside to the disaster.

by on Jun.14, 2011

Nissan will likely delay the start of Leaf production at its Smyrna, TN plant.

Nissan may be forced to delay production of its Leaf battery car at its main U.S. assembly plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, company officials are warning, due to ongoing problems resulting from Japan’s March 11 natural disaster.

The earthquake and tsunami disaster that hit Japan has already had a significant impact on the roll out of the Nissan Leaf battery cars, delaying the planned spring ramp-up of production at the launch plant in Japan. Nonetheless, the March 11 disaster also is helping demonstrate that EVs can fit into modern society without a lot of fuss, the maker claims.

The March earthquake and tsunami is likely to cost Japanese automakers more than a million units of lost production, while severely reducing profits for the year.  (Honda projecting a two-thirds drop in profits for the fiscal year. Click Here for more.) Significantly, some key launches are being impacted, including significant delays in the ramp-up of the 2012 Honda Civic and a several-month delay in the introduction of the new Toyota Prius V.

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It has taken Nissan, meanwhile, longer to build up production of the Leaf, while Hideaki Watanabe, Nissan vice president for zero emission vehicles, said the timing of the planned opening of the Leaf assembly line in Smyrna is uncertain.

“After March 11, all the resources of the company were devoted to helping with the recovery (in Japan.) This delayed the planning,” he said. “It put us in a very difficult situation,” Watanabe told a group of reporters.

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Nissan Leaf Named European Car Of The Year

Key victory for new Nissan battery-electric vehicle.

by on Nov.29, 2010

The 2011 Nissan Leaf wins a key award.

After watching its top battery car competitor, the Chevrolet Volt, snag several key endorsements, the 2011 Nissan Leaf has landed a big one of its own.  The compact battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, has been named European Car of the Year, overcoming tough competition from an assortment of conventional and “green” products.

Leaf’s victory not only marks the first time a battery car has won the influential award but the first time an electric vehicle has simply made it into the final round, where Nissan’s entry was pitted against the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Opel Meriva, Citroen C3/DS3, Dacia Duster, Ford C-Max and Volvo S60.

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“This award recognizes the pioneering zero-emission Nissan Leaf as competitive to conventional cars in terms of safety, performance, spaciousness and handling,” said Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn as he accepted the annual award. “It also reflects Nissan’s standing as an innovative and exciting brand with a clear vision of the future of transportation, which we call sustainable mobility.”

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First Drive: 2011 Nissan Leaf

Battery car charges into the unknown.

by on Sep.10, 2010

The 2011 Nissan Leaf is the first of several battery vehicles from the Japanese maker.

Automakers, by nature, tend to be a risk-averse group.  No surprise considering a major new vehicle program can quickly run costs up to a billion dollars or more.

Yet, Nissan is putting plenty on the line as it gets ready to roll out its first battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, the 2011 Leaf.  Not just money, but prestige, with CEO Carlos Ghosn’s own reputation on the line as he personally champions the breakthrough battery car.

Will the 2011 Nissan Leaf live up to expectations as the first purely battery-driven automobile to meet the needs of the typical American motorist, rather than tech-crazy “first adopters” and enviro-addicts willing to opt for anything promoted as green?  To find out, we jumped at the change to drive the new BEV, which Nissan had waiting for us at its technical center in suburban Detroit.

It takes only a quick glimpse to recognize the Leaf isn’t your everyday automobile.  Like Toyota, with the popular Prius, Nissan has opted for a unique – and distinctive – design that will blare out, “I’m different,” as it rolls by.

Now, that’s not just to let owners easily show off their environmentalist bona fides.  There’s a practical purpose to the sweeping lines of the 2011 Nissan Leaf.  Minimizing aerodynamic resistance has yielded a significant bump in the BEV’s range and improved performance as well, the maker claims.  It also has advantages when it comes to creature comfort.

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In the plus column when it comes to electric vehicles is their naturally quiet nature.  You don’t have a big internal combustion engine roaring away directly in front of you.  But that creates what some call the “stumps in the swap syndrome.”  All the little tics and pops that are normally masked by the IC engine are suddenly quite apparent.

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