US: US build will bring Nissan Leaf EV updates

20 March 2012 | News | Source: Graeme Roberts

A new more, efficient heating system that extends cold weather range, leather upholstery and updated interior are on the way for Nissan's Leaf EV, according to a US report.

Nissan told the Detroit News a more efficient heater was expected to help extend the Leaf’s range in cold-weather conditions by “20 to 25 miles”.

Leather seats and a darker new interior will complement the more efficient heating system, the report added.

Mark Perry, director of product and advanced planning for Nissan Americas, said the automaker was on track to double sales in 2012; it sold about 9,700 Leafs in the US in 2011. Sales in all 50 states began only a few weeks ago.

When Nissan was designing the Leaf five years ago, it thought about leather as an option.

"We were like, 'Ah, let's do the clean, green recycled materials,'" Perry said in a Detroit News interview.

But customers told them otherwise, saying they want leather, Perry said. "People want a dark interior so we're to give them a dark interior, too."

The paper noted that General Motors offers its extended-range electric Chevrolet Volt with a leather trim option. GM spokesman Rob Peterson said about three-quarters of Volt models sold or leased have leather.

The Leaf - by far the best-selling electric vehicle in the United States - outsold the Chevrolet Volt in 2011. About 7,600 Volts were sold last year, below the forecast of 10,000, the paper said.

But the Volt outsold the Leaf in February; sales of the Leaf fell to 478 that month. Perry said he expects that sometime this summer Nissan will be selling 2,000 or more Leafs a month in the US.

Nissan will unveil the upgraded 2013 Leaf in December when it begins producing the car in Smyrna, Tennesee. The automaker won US$1.4bn in Energy Department loans in January 2010 to build batteries and up to 150,000 electric vehicles annually in the US.

Consumer Reports' senior auto testing director David Champion has said the range of the Leaf dropped dramatically in cold weather when the heater was turned on.

Perry said the 2013 Leaf will have a "much, much more efficient" heater that will dramatically extend the Leaf's range in cold weather.

The Environmental Protection Agency rates the Leaf's range at 73 miles but Nissan has said it can go up to 100 miles on a single charge, depending on driving conditions and 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," Perry said.

Editor's note: just-auto tested a Leaf for a week recently here in the UK and found the daily indicated available range varied from 69 to 80 miles. The heater/air conditioner unit did not work like that in a conventional car and we experienced problems getting heat or dehumidifed demister air to the windscreen when on the move, mostly in range-extending 'economy' driving mode. However, the pre-heat system, which can be set to have the car warmed (or cooled) for a specific departure time worked very well and was a much-liked feature.