LEAF 2.0: Evolution, Not RevolutionNissan has just unveiled the updated 2013 LEAF in Japan, where it is available immediately. An updated version should also make its way to the U.S. soon (no specific date yet, according to Nissan USA), and I would be surprised if it was very different from the Japanese version, at least when it comes to the powertrain (maybe trim details will vary because of local preferences). So what's new? Well, the changes are more evolutionary than revolutionary: There's a more bare-bone "S Grade" trim that is less expensive, a new electric motor that uses 40% less of the rare earth element dysprosium, the power electronics were redesigned and integrated for a 30% volume reduction and a 10% mass reduction, which, along with other weight reductions adds up to 80kg/176lbs. The trunk is also larger, going from 330L/11.65 cubic feet to 370L/13.06 cubic feet.
There are also some power-saving tweaks, such as a more frugal heat-pump cabin heater, heated seat for all seats, heated steering wheel and heat shield ceiling, an special energy-efficient BOSE stereo, as well as changes to the regenerative brake control system to make it more efficient. All this changes add up to a 14% improvement in driving range, from 200km in the Japanese test-cycle to 228km. The US test cycle is much stricter, so the total range is less, but the proportion of the improvement should stay pretty similar. If that's the case, the official EPA rating should go from 73 miles to 83.2 miles.
Nissan has a video that gives an overview of the changes:
Nissan also plans to expand its Japanese network of quick-charge outlets to 700. Hopefully they'll follow Tesla's lead and build quick-charging stations elsewhere in the world too.
Nissan's been struggling to meet its sales target for the LEAF lately, which might explain why the lease price was reduced from $249/month to $219/month. But new technologies always take a while to gain full acceptance in the marketplace; it took many years for the Prius hybrid to become a best-seller for Toyota, and it was a less radical step than going 100% electric. Hopefully this doesn't affect Nissan's long-term resolve to support EV technology.