Nissan turning a new Leaf in 2012, offers big upgrades to the little electric


The all-electric Nissan Leaf is getting a host of improvements later this year. The Japanese automaker has confirmed a wide array of upgrades for the 2013 model.

In a recent interview with the Detroit News, Mark Perry, director of product and advanced planning for Nissan Americas , confirmed that the 2013 Leaf will get upgrades to the all-electric hatchback’s heating system, as well as snazzy new leather interior options.

Apparently during the early design stages, Nissan considered doing leather interior, but instead opted for a more environmentally friendly approach. “We were like, ‘Ah, let’s do the clean, green recycled materials,'” Perry said. But after enough customers expressed a desire for the option of something a little more stylish than the recycled plastic seats found in the current Leaf, Nissan has now decided to offer something more chic.

Another gripe customers had was the heating system found inside the current Leafs (Leaves?) While most have had no trouble with the current electric-powered air heater, a significant amount of consumers have found a noticeable drop in range: as much as 30 miles, when using the car’s heater.

This, of course, can prove to be a real nuisance – especially in cold weather climates. And while Perry didn’t offer any specifics, he did offer up that the 2013 Leaf will see marked improvement over the 2011/2012 models. “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 pledged. With EVs more miles are always welcome.

Finally, there is talk of a 6.6 kilowatt charger in the works for the Leaf, but that’s all it is at the moment – just talk.

It’s great to see Nissan listening to its customers and attempting to build upon what has already been a successful platform. It looks like Nissan is not content with resting on its laurels. Of course, we imagine the biggest boost Nissan will be looking to see is improvement to the Leaf’s sales. It’s already the best-selling electric car in the United States – and only recently became available in all 50 states.

According to Perry, the Leaf is on track to double sales in 2012. In 2011, Nissan sold sold about 9,700 Leafs in the United States alone — outselling the Chevrolet Volt, which managed about 7,600 last year.

To meet those figures, Nissan will begin manufacturing the 2013 Leaf in the U.S. at the automaker’s Smyrna plant in Tennessee. No word yet on whether that will help offset pricing for the 2013 Leaf.

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