A midlife refresh is expected for the 2013 Nissan Leaf electric car, having been on sale in the U.S. since 2011 with nary an alteration. Battery technology has evolved a lot in the past two years, so quick adjustments for EVs have been expected for a while.
But to make them a viable alternative to their gas- and hybrid-powered alternatives, EV prices really need to come down. That’s where the 2013 Nissan Leaf comes in.
Currently, the Nissan Leaf starts at $36,050 for a base “S” model or $38,100 for an upscale “SV,” including $850 for destination and handling and excluding an up to $7,500 federal tax credit. Reports to Automotive News suggest that the automaker is going to drop that price with the budget model to help spur sales.
The 2012 Nissan Leaf has standard, expensive LED headlights. The 2013 Leaf is expected to come with high-intensity xenon headlights as standard, with the LEDs still available on higher-trim models. Xenon headlights use more electricity, but that’s the price you pay for cheaping out. It’s also supposed to have a simpler electronics setup, with some components moved to under the hood from the back of the car. Navigation functions are expected to be simplified in the base model. And, finally, Nissan will be building its lithium-ion batteries in-house in Tennessee instead of outsourcing them, helping control costs. Those components will likely also find homes in Nissan and Infiniti electric and hybrid vehicles, like the upcoming all-electric Infiniti sedan and the not-yet-officially-announced second-generation Nissan Altima Hybrid.
Automotive News‘ source insists that Nissan is putting a lot of pressure on its suppliers to bring down costs, some as much as 50 percent compared to where they are for the 2012 Nissan Leaf. But it’s not yet known how customers are going to respond to a cheap-for-the-sake-of-cheap base-model 2013 Leaf. Most early adopters have paid premium prices for the Leaf SV. Heck, if you have the means to get an electric car, you likely own your own home and have more than one vehicle. Nissan expected that it would sell 20,000 Leafs through 2012 in the U.S., but it has since had to backtrack, as it’s only managed to 5,212 through the first nine months. That’s down 28 percent from this time last year.
Nissan may not need a lower price of entry; it needs to make a car that’s better than competitors like the Ford Focus Electric. And it needs to have a specific, hard-driving value proposition for those people who don’t order soy mocha lattes on a daily routine, wear turtlenecks, and subscribe to computer magazines.
Fortunately, we hear Nissan is vastly upgrading the Leaf’s charger technology. Now, Nissan’s marketing people need to step up their game. The 2013 Nissan Leaf will move from Japan to the U.S. in December and is expected to go on sale in February.
Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)