Nissan introduces cheaper 2013 Leaf trim level in Japan

Nissan introduces cheaper Leaf trim level in JapanIt’s been a rough year for the Nissan Leaf. With sales sliding through the end of October, the battery electric vehicle will miss Nissan’s sales targets by a significant margin. The company hoped to sell 20,000 Leafs this year, but only 6,791 were sold as of October 31. For 2013, Nissan is trying a new tactic that could help those flagging sales numbers: making the Leaf cheaper.

Rumors of a cheaper basic trim level for the Leaf have been circulating for a few months, and Nissan has just unveiled such a car in Japan. Called the Leaf S, it costs $5,000 less than the Leaf X (the previous Japanese base model) and $9,609 less than the bells-and-whistles G.

Leaf s buyers will sacrifice a bit, though. The cheapest Leaf comes with rental car-grade steel wheels and cloth seats. It also misses out on tech options such as a navigation system that predicts how much charge the car will have at the end of a journey, and a seven-speaker Bose sound system.

However, the Leaf s will not sacrifice anything under the hood. All 2013 trim levels come with the same 107 horsepower electric motor and lithium ion battery pack. A previous report stated that the Leaf S would achieve its low price with a smaller motor or battery pack.

The entire 2013 Leaf range will benefit from a host of improvements designed to increase the EV’s efficiency. The whole car is 176 pounds lighter, thanks in part to a more compact electric motor that also uses 40 percent less dysprosium, a rare-earth element.

Nissan also added 1.5 cubic feet of rear cargo space by making the charger smaller and moving it to the front of the car.

Unfortunately, none of these changes apply to U.S.-spec Leafs, at least not yet. Nissan would not confirm any differences or similarities between the U.S. and Japanese models, only saying that details of the American version would be released closer to its on-sale date.

Nissan builds the Leaf at its factory in Smyrna, Tennessee as well as Japan, so any changes would theoretically be easy to implement on either side of the Pacific.

Knocking $5,000 off the base price of the Leaf would open up a wider gap between the Nissan and its main rival, the Chevy Volt. The 2012 Leaf starts at $35,200 (before a $7,500 federal tax credit), so it still might be hard to convince regular buyers to go for a base model with cloth seats and no tech when they could have a nicely equipped Altima for the same price.

The real question, though is whether a cheaper Leaf could overcome the range anxiety that makes the Volt such a compelling option. We’ll find out when, and if, the Leaf s goes on sale in the U.S.

Product Review

Bigger battery and folding top add appeal, but BMW’s i8 remains ultra-niche

Want a high-performance vehicle that's more than just a frightening driving experience? Desire the look and feel of a sports car with the road manners of a luxury commuter? The BMW i8 is for you.

Nissan is using old Leaf batteries to power and connect off-the-grid campers

Nissan has teamed up with trailer manufacturer Opus to design a mobile, weatherproof power pack built with battery cells sourced from the first-generation Leaf. Called Roam, the pack stores enough electricity to power a camper for up to a…
Emerging Tech

Photosynthesizing artificial leaf may be the air-cleaning tool we’ve dreamed of

Engineers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have invented an artificial leaf which could both clean up our air and provide a cost-effective type of fuel. Here's how it works.

Maserati is prepared to fight for a piece of the electrified supercar segment

The Alfieri concept Maserati shown in 2014 is on track for production. It will offer three drivetrain options, including hybrid and electric variants, and it will take just two seconds to reach 60 mph from a stop in its quickest…

Bentley Bentayga Speed surpasses Lamborghini Urus as world’s fastest SUV

The Bentley Bentayga Speed has wrested the title of world's fastest SUV from its cousin, the Lamborghini Urus. But the Bentley is just 1 mph faster than the Lamborghini. It requires 626 horsepower to achieve that top speed.
Emerging Tech

With CabinSense, cars will soon know who’s riding in them and respond accordingly

What if your car could know who's riding in it and customize the entertainment and safety options accordingly? That’s what's promised by the new CabinSense in-car Occupancy Monitoring System.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

General Motors cycles into a new market with its first-ever ebikes

When General Motors launched a public campaign last year to name its new ebike brand, many wondered if Bikey McBikeface might win out. But it didn't. Instead, it's called Arīv, and the two bikes are up for pre-order this week.
Product Review

The 2020 Volvo V60 Cross Country is a do-it-all Swedish army knife

Volvo laced up its smallest station wagon in hiking clothes to create the V60 Cross Country. It's a lifted, all-wheel drive wagon that laughs at icy roads while coddling its occupants. We travel to Sweden to try it out.

The Polestar 2, Sweden’s answer to the Tesla Model 3, begins taking shape

Volvo sister company Polestar has released a teaser image to give us our first look at the 2, its second model. Polestar tells us the 2 will arrive as a four-door fastback with a 400-hp electric powertrain and about 300 miles of range.

2020 Kia Soul and Soul EV continue to think inside the box

The 2020 Kia Soul is the third generation of Kia's boxy curiosity. The Soul maintains its signature look, but gets tech and powertrain upgrades. The all-electric Soul EV returns as well.

Psychedelic Volkswagen Microbus from Woodstock returns for an encore

With its trippy paint scheme, the Volkswagen "Light" bus became a symbol of the 1969 Woodstock music festival. VW teamed up with the artist who created this rolling mural to stage a comeback in time for Woodstock's 50th anniversary.

Amazon plugs in with $700 million investment in electric pickup company Rivian

Amazon invested $700 million for a minority stake in U.S. all-electric truck maker Rivian, according to a joint release. The announcement follows a Reuters report that GM and Amazon might invest $1 billion to $2 billion in the company.

2019 RAM 1500 Classic Warlock special edition: Badass style without the whoop

If you like the looks of blacked-out badass trucks without the cost of a desert racer, FCA announced the 2019 Ram 1500 Classic Warlock, a special edition pickup that focuses on appearance with only a touch of additional off-road capability.