Unless they are kept in warm climates, leaves tend to wither in the cold. Although this is a truism in nature, it took a cold season in America for Nissan to quietly show it has learned this lesson applies also to its electric car known as the LEAF.
Specifically, Nissan recently announced changes to its pending 2012 as well as 2013 LEAF models that will include more heat for the occupants, and perhaps more importantly, for the battery.
All 2012 LEAFs will come standard with a thermal management package to help warm the battery for cold weather driving.
Last winter reports were that ambient cold in snow belt states was ebbing the life from possible driving range for LEAFs by as much as 30 miles. Lithium-ion batteries do not like extreme temperatures, and prefer moderate climates.
For that matter, the same is true of people. As such, Nissan also announced it will equip every 2012 LEAF with heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and heated external rear-view mirrors.
The 2012s will also be equipped with a rear heating and air conditioning duct and all these changes are an effort to put an end to driver complaints about the car’s ability to function acceptably in cold weather (or warm weather in the case of the A/C duct).
The LEAF is the first-mass produced electric car from a major manufacturer, so these kinds of learning curve experiences are not unexpected.
And Nissan has otherwise been very positive about its all-electric future. Its CEO Carlos Ghosn has gone on record as the most bullish of major auto execs predicting the highest percentages of future EV proliferation, estimating they will comprise 10 percent of all vehicles on the road by 2020.
As such, the forward-thinking company has also confirmed 2013 LEAFs will get an upgrade to their on-board 240-volt chargers from 3.3 kW to 6.6 kW. This should help significantly with recharge times.
The charger upgrades may happen about the same time LEAFs are being produced in the U.S. at the company’s Smyrna, Tenn. assembly plant. Thus far, all LEAFs are imported from Japan.
Still details are trickling in, so while we are talking about future models, we can only report that pricing for the new LEAFs has not been announced.
The MSRP for 2012s is rumored to be close to announcement, perhaps within a week. Rumors also are 2013s may even see some form of a price cut, but this is pure speculation, not something we would bank on.
What is certain is Nissan will soon have competition to contend with. Mitsubishi is due to release its i all-electric model later this year, as is the case with Ford and its Focus EV.
We contacted Ford lately with a bunch of basic questions, and were told it was not ready to divulge certain answers, but we were told we are on the list to find out when Ford is ready.
Also, we reported the Mitsubishi i minicar is due in November, and at $27,990 before incentives, it will be the new price leader. It is a smaller, slower, more limited range car, however, better suited for around town driving even more so than the LEAF.
In the mean time the Nissan LEAF is the only car in its class, and kudos to it for being willing to improve its product as needed. Now let’s just hope that price can be further whittled away.
And this said, it is believed all of these cars are being internally subsidized to some extent by their major market manufacturers in an effort to make sticker shock as minimal as possible.