Nissan has begun to ramp up production of the LEAF at its manufacturing plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, and has also announced a number of upgrades for the 2013 model.
The electric hatchbacks roll down the line alongside legacy vehicles, but instead of gas tanks and internal combustion engines, workers install lithium-ion battery packs made at Nissan’s battery plant next door, and electric motors produced at the powertrain plant in nearby Decherd, Tennessee. Nissan estimates that LEAF production has added 300 local jobs.
“By assembling the LEAF on our current Altima and Maxima line, we are able to reduce costs by using existing equipment,” said VP Susan Brennan. “We truly have localized US manufacturing of the LEAF’s major components across the board.”
The 2013 LEAF comes in three trim levels – the more affordable S grade lacks the navigation system, LED headlights and alloy wheels that are options on the mid-level SV model, and standard on the top-of-the-line SL, which also features leather seats. “The LEAF has expanded beyond early adopters and is now appealing to a broad spectrum of consumers.” said Senior VP of Sales and Marketing Brian Carolin. “Since we launched the LEAF in 2010, we’ve learned that people are very attracted to the advanced technology and other amenities, but they are also looking for a more affordable price point.”
The 2013 LEAF has not yet earned an official EPA range rating, but Nissan expects the range to be higher than the 2012 model’s 73 miles. The battery and powertrain are unchanged – a 24 kWh lithium-ion pack and an 80 kW (107 hp) motor, producing 187 lb-ft of torque. Improvements to aerodynamics, regenerative braking and energy management account for the increased rage.
An optional 6.6 kW onboard charger reduces charging time from about seven hours to four, using a Level 2 charging station. An optional CHAdeMO DC quick-charging port allows charging to 80 percent in about 30 minutes. The onboard charger is now smaller, and located under the hood, which yields a little more cargo space.
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