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April 21, 2011

The New York show got off to a strong start with the announcement by Nissan Americas chairman Carlos Tavares that the company will make improvements to its sought-after Leaf battery electric car for the 2012 model year, making cold weather upgrades standard in northern states.

While the company has only delivered about 500 of the cars so far, its plans to accelerate deliveries soon, so that they are boosted from the “few hundreds to the many thousands,” he pledged. Wait times for the car will drop from today's four-to-seven months to just two or three months.

But it could be worth waiting a bit for the 2012 model because in addition to the seat and steering wheel heaters in the cold weather package, the new year brings an upgraded 6.6 kwh onboard battery charger, halving 240-volt charging time to a much more practical 4 hours.

Nissan had closed order-taking because of overwhelming demand, but now that deliveries are expected to pick up, the company will resume taking orders May 1 in the states where the car is currently offered (California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Tennessee, Texas and Hawaii).

More states are scheduled to join that list, with nationwide availability next year.

The few hundred customers already on the road have provided some insight into the car’s use, with owners averaging seven miles per trip and taking two hours and eleven minutes to recharge typically, while normally using their home 240-volt charging station.

If you can’t buy a Leaf anytime soon you can at least appreciate its role on the silver screen by viewing the new documentary “Revenge of the Electric Car,” potentially coming to an art-house theater near you soon.

 

DAN CARNEY is a veteran auto industry observer who has written for MSNBC.com, Motor Trend, AutoWeek, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Better Homes and Gardens and other publications. He has authored two books, "Dodge Viper" and "Honda S2000" and is a juror for the North American Car of the Year award. Carney covers the industry from the increasingly strategic location of Washington, DC.

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