The 2013 Nissan Leaf has been heavily upgraded from last year’s car, boasting equivalent fuel economy numbers of 130 mpg in the city and 102 mpg on the highway compared to last year’s 106 and 92, respectively. But that’s just an efficiency rating to help you feel good about your electricity bill each month.
The Leaf boasts an improved real-world driving range that Nissan says will be 75 miles compared to last year’s 73 in early estimations. But those aren’t exactly equivalent. The EPA has created a new electric vehicle testing procedure for 2013 that allows for the car to be driven at 80 percent of capacity–battery-preservation mode. At full charge, the EPA has rated the 2013 Nissan Leaf at 84 miles, an 11-mile improvement mostly met through software improvements.
“EPA labels on prior model year vehicles reflected an estimated range based solely on a 100 percent battery charge,” said Nissan’s Travis Parman in a statement. “It is Nissan’s experience that many customers elect to use the vehicle’s default Long Distance Mode charge setting and charge their vehicle to 100 percent for maximum range. Nissan’s new battery capacity warranty (~70 percent range covered for 5 years/60,000 miles, whichever comes first) provides peace of mind to do so.”
What the 80-percent mode is help maintain the integrity of the battery over the long run. Last year, Nissan ran into issues with its Leafs sold in warmer climates when the batteries in them started to degrade prematurely. In our driving experience in temperate climates, we had some issues traveling with the 2012 Leaf during highway treks.
The improvements made to the 2013 Nissan Leaf extend further than the car’s range and efficiency, however. This year, Nissan has also improved the on-board charger from 3.3 kWh to 6.6 kWh, allowing it to charge to full capacity in half the time of the 2012 model when hooked to a Level 2 quick charger. The improved on-board charger is optional on the new base Leaf S model but comes standard on midgrade Leaf SV and top-level Leaf SL models.
Additionally, new colors are available, new 17-inch aluminum wheels come on the Leaf SL, and even leather is available for the first time. The best part about all of this, however, is the Leaf’s new price: $29,650, including $850 for destination and handling, for a base Leaf S. That represents a $6,400 cut from last year. It’s joined by the $32,670 Leaf SV and $35,690 Leaf SL, which enjoys a discount of about $2,000 from last year’s model. All are helped by Nissan’s domestic production of the Leaf in Tennessee instead of Japan.
Last year, Nissan sold 9,819 Leaf hatchbacks in the U.S., far below its goal of 20,000. With a cheaper price and greater efficiency, the 2013 Nissan Leaf should hopefully make a greater impact for the automaker. It’s on sale nationwide now.