Today, Nissan started building its Leaf electric cars in the United States. In addition to local production, the 2013 model year also brings several improvements to the Leaf, including a lower base price, faster charger, and some additional options.
A new trim level, S, has been added to the bottom of the Leaf lineup, which Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn says will be cheaper than last year's base price of $35,200. The S will have steel wheels, halogen headlights (instead of LEDs), and no navigation system or remote charger interface. In place of the standard backup camera that displayed an image on the navigation screen, the S will have an optional backup camera with a smaller screen. Pricing has not yet been announced. (See our Nissan Leaf road test.)
Above that, SV and SL models will receive a faster 6.6-kW onboard charger, which should allow recharges in about four hours from a dedicated 240-volt, Level 2 electric car charger. A Japanese-standard ChadeMo DC fast-charge port will remain optional. The SV will also lose the standard LED lights, although they will be optional. New options on the SL will include a leather interior and Nissan's Around View monitor for parking lot maneuvers.
Nissan also claims the 2013 Leaf will have a slightly longer range, enabled by aerodynamic and other efficiency improvements. The EPA has not yet signed off on the range numbers.
Other minor improvements for the 2013 Leaf include a flatter cargo floor and lighted, lockable charge port door that can be released with the key fob.
A lower price, more features, faster charging, and longer range should make the Leaf even more desirable to electric-car shoppers.