It may be one of the hottest cars on the market, but that doesn't mean Nissan is letting the all-electric Leaf rest on its laurels as it enters its second model year. The automaker recently announced minor changes to the hatchback for 2012, along with a bigger change for 2013 aimed at improving charging times.
When the 2012 Leaf goes on sale this November, its biggest update will be the addition of the previously-optional cold weather package as standard equipment. Featuring heated seats, a duct to direct warmth to the back seats, battery pack temperature management, a heated steering wheel and heated mirrors, the package was created in response to Leaf customers reporting considerable reductions in range when running the car's heater.
But there are even bigger changes on the horizon for the fully electric hatchback. According to Nissan, the 3.3 kilowatt charger found in the current Leaf will be upgraded to a 6.6 kW unit when the 2013 model year rolls around. Nissan says the stronger charger will allow the Leaf to recharge in half the time taken by current models, which need about 7 hours to recharge with a 220-volt power supply or 30 minutes with a 480-volt quick-charging station.
Although Nissan has yet to announce pricing for the 2012 Leaf, we don't expect it to increase significantly over the current MSRP of around $33,000 before destination ? especially if Nissan wants the Leaf to remain America's most popular electric car. Through the first six months of 2011, Nissan has sold 3,875 Leafs, while Chevrolet has recorded just 2,745 sales of the Leaf's biggest rival, the plug-in hybrid electric Volt.
Short supply is much of the reason sales haven't been higher for both models. Last year, Nissan announced the Leaf received 20,000 pre-orders, selling out production through fall 2011. That was before Nissan was forced to temporarily halt Leaf production in March due to the devastating Japanese tsunami. Meanwhile, General Motors announced earlier this year that it would be doubling Volt production to meet high demand.