|2013 Nissan LEAF. Click to enlarge.|
Following on the November 2012 introduction of the updated LEAF in Japan (earlier post), Nissan has introduced the updated 2013 LEAF to the US, as well as begun its assembly in the US at the Smyrna, Tenn. plant, with battery production taking place next door in the country’s largest lithium-ion automotive battery plant. (Earlier post.)
Due to efficiency improvements, the 2013 Nissan LEAF is expected to offer improved range, with testing on the EPA test cycle to be announced closer the vehicle’s on-sale date. The updated version of the LEAF in Japan delivers range at full charge on the JC08 cycle of 228 km (141 miles)—a 14% improvement over the original version of the LEAF with a 200-km range (124 miles) on the JC08 cycle. (EPA cycle results will differ; the 2012 LEAF is estimated to achieve up to 73-mile driving range under the required EPA-derived MPG-based 2-cycle testing.)
Among the changes to the 2013 LEAF are improved energy efficiency due to refined aerodynamics, a wider range of regenerative braking, improved energy management and a newly available 6.6 kW onboard charger that reduces 220V charging time nearly in half to approximately four hours for full charge. In addition, Nissan is adding a new lower priced entry-level LEAF S grade.
The refinements and enhancements for 2013 hit at the core of customer requests during LEAF’s first two years—available features providing quicker charging, improved range expectations and the ability to fine-tune the equipment levels to exact owner needs, whether they desire fewer standard features for an even more affordable car or more luxury amenities like leather-appointed seating and premium audio.—Nissan Division Vice President and General Manager Al Castignetti
Other 2013 model year additions include an available hybrid heater system that provides superior cold weather performance while consuming less energy; a new available “B” drive mode that increases regenerative braking during deceleration; and a new charge port light and lock, with a charge port door release button added to the intelligent key fob.
Rear cargo space has been increased to 24 cubic feet with the 2nd row seat upright by relocating the onboard charger to the front of the vehicle. There is 30 cubic feet of cargo space with the standard 60/40-split rear seat folded down.
EV-IT improvements for 2013 include a new “Eco route” feature added to the available navigation system that includes suggested power-saving alternative routes—plus Google local search, Pandora link for iPhone and iPod cover art. The new Google Places search function allows LEAF owners to look for area restaurants, shops and other points of interest and browse user reviews using Google’s POI database to get the most up-to-date information at all times.
EV Platform. The front-wheel drive LEAF again uses a dedicated EV platform with batteries housed in the floor for optimum vehicle packaging and weight distribution. The body design includes a rigid-mounted battery frame, which helps provide greater body rigidity compared to a conventional compact car.
LEAF rides on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, with a 175.0-inch overall length, 69.7-inch width and 61.0-inch height. Dimensionally, the Nissan LEAF falls in between the Nissan Altima and Nissan Versa, and like those vehicles provides room for five adults and a good-sized cargo area.
LEAF’s 24 kWh Li-ion battery comprises 48 modules of four laminated cells each (192 cells total), which allows a high degree of packaging flexibility. The batteries are designed to maximize drive time and minimize charging time.
The battery, developed by the Automotive Energy Supply Corporation (AESC), a joint venture of Nissan and NEC, powers a high-response 80kW AC synchronous motor, rated at 80 kW (107 hp) and 187 lb-ft (254 N·m) of torque, which drives the front wheels through a single speed reducer. The new motor reduces the use of the rare earth element (REE) dysprosium (Dy) by 40% compared to conventional EV motors. While it offers the same power output (80 kW) as its predecessor, the torque is slightly reduced.
A charge port is located in the front body for the 220V charger and portable trickle charge cable (110V). A charge port light and lock has been added for 2013. The available Quick Charge Port (standard on SL, optional on S, SV) allows charging to 80% capacity in 30 minutes at public charging stations using a DC fast charger. There is also a standard photovoltaic solar panel spoiler on SL models, which supports charging of the 12-volt battery for vehicle accessories.
For 2013, LEAF SV and SL grades feature a new 6.6 kW onboard charger that reduces 220V charging time nearly in half to approximately 4 hours for a full charge. The system is optionally available on the LEAF S, which in standard form will utilize a 3.6 kW onboard charger. All LEAF models come with a standard portable trickle charge cable.
The 2013 Nissan LEAF again uses an independent strut suspension with stabilizer bar in front and a torsion beam rear suspension with integrated stabilizer bar. Steering is provided by a vehicle-speed-sensitive electric power steering system.
Braking is provided by power-assisted front vented disc/solid rear disc brakes with Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist. The new “B-mode” (SV and SL grades) allows the driver to engage an even more aggressive level of regenerative braking while decelerating, such as when going down hills. The “B-mode” is in addition to the normal and Eco drive modes. The Eco mode increases regenerative braking, assists in limiting motor output and reduces HVAC power output.
Nissan has incorporated an “Approaching Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians” system, which is designed to alert pedestrians that a vehicle is approaching. When driving at low speeds, the system emits a sound from a speaker at the front of the vehicle. When the vehicle’s speed reaches 19 mph, pedestrians are able to hear the car moving and the “approaching sound” automatically turns off. If the vehicle speed drops below 16 mph, the sound comes on again.
The flat panel center C-stack cluster features a color monitor for the available navigation system, available RearView Monitor or Around View Monitor and control of the audio and climate systems.
The display also provides access to the CARWINGS telematics system (standard on SV and SL), which is connected to a Nissan data center, (subscription required, no charge for 36 months). Through CARWINGS, Nissan LEAF drivers are able to use mobile smart phones to turn on air conditioning and set charging functions remotely, even when the vehicle is powered down. The system also displays “reachable area,” as well as showing a selection of nearby charging stations. An on-board charging timer can also be programmed to start the charging event whenever desired. Also standard on SV and SL grades is the Nissan Navigation System with NavTraffic (SiriusXM subscription required, sold separately).
Recycled materials are also used for the back door trim, roof trim and headliner, carpeting and a number of other interior pieces such as the door panels and center console storage cover. LEAF SL includes new standard leather-appointed seats for 2013.
Standard 2013 LEAF safety systems include Nissan Advanced Air Bag System (AABS) with dual-stage supplemental front air bags with seat belt sensors and occupant classification sensor; front seat-mounted side impact supplemental air bags; roof-mounted curtain side impact supplemental air bags for front and rear-seat outboard occupant head protection; 3-point ALR/ELR seat belts (driver’s seat ELR only) with pretensioners and load limiters; child seat upper tether anchor; LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) system; and child safety rear door locks. Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and Traction Control System (TCS) are also standard on all LEAF models.
The lithium-ion battery pack carries a 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.
US Nissan LEAF production is sourced from assembly and battery production facilities in Smyrna, Tennessee. It is assembled on the same line as the Nissan Maxima and Nissan Altima. Nissan’s new lithium-ion battery plant is in an adjacent facility.
After two years on the market, the LEAF has sold about 50,000 units worldwide, of which 19,500 are in the United States.