Nissan upgrades Leaf electric car, lowers price (Update)

Nov 20, 2012 by Yuri Kageyama
Nissan Motor Co.'s latest LEAF electric car is displayed for media in Tokyo, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012. The upgraded Leaf electric car from Nissan can travel further without recharging, comes in a cheaper model and tells drivers how much battery life is left. (AP Photo/Junji Kurokawa)

The upgraded Nissan Motor Co. Leaf electric car can travel further without recharging, comes in a cheaper model and tells drivers how much battery life is left.

The changes in the revamped model, shown Tuesday at a Tokyo hotel, were based on feedback from owners whose chief worry was running out of electric juice while driving, Nissan officials said.

Electric cars emit no pollution, but they need to be recharged. Owners have charging equipment installed at home. But the scarcity of recharging stations on the roads has limited electric vehicles use to short commutes and kept zero-emission cars confined to a market niche.

The new model can travel 228 kilometers (142 miles) on a single charge, up from 200 kilometers (124 miles) as long as you don't use air conditioning, because of improvements such as streamlining the battery system and the vehicle's lighter weight, according to Nissan.

Nissan Motor Co.'s latest LEAF electric car is displayed for media in Tokyo, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012. The upgraded Leaf electric car from Nissan can travel further without recharging, comes in a cheaper model and tells drivers how much battery life is left. (AP Photo/Junji Kurokawa)

It sells for less than 2.5 million yen ($31,000) in Japan when stripped of fancy options and adding government green subsidies—more affordable than the cheapest previous model at just below 3 million yen ($37,000).

Nissan did not detail overseas sales plans but said similar upgrades were in the works.

The Leaf is the world's most popular electric vehicle, comprising more than half of all electric car sales. Leaf global sales since late 2010 total 43,000 vehicles, about half of them in Japan.

More than 17,000 Leaf cars have been sold in the U.S. and monthly sales are recently at about 1,500 vehicles, according to Nissan.

Senior Vice President Masaaki Nishizawa told reporters the Leaf does away with the hassles of going to gas stations and allows drivers a cleaner conscience.

"People who try out the Leaf are moved," he said. "But they are worried about cruise range."

Nissan Motor Co. employee Kazuhiro Fujibayashi demonstrates the electric recharge plug-in process of the company's latest LEAF car for photographers in Tokyo, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012. The upgraded Leaf electric car from Nissan can travel further without recharging, comes in a cheaper model and tells drivers how much battery life is left.(AP Photo/Junji Kurokawa)

When the Leaf first went on sale, recharging facilities were at 200 Nissan dealerships in Japan. That will grow to 700 Nissan dealers later this year, or 1,200 locations, when including other spots such as convenience stores.

Among other changes to the Leaf:

— Roomier luggage space after the recharging mechanism became smaller and was moved to the front.

— A dashboard display that tells how much battery charge is left.

— A navigation system that calculates the best energy-saving route to your destination.

— A smaller lighter recharging nozzle.

— Reduction of rare-earth use by 40 percent for the electric motor.

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User comments : 13

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Roj
2.6 / 5 (5) Nov 20, 2012
Come out with a light-duty truck and I'll buy it.
Bob_Kob
1 / 5 (2) Nov 20, 2012
It didnt tell you how much battery was left before?? So you could just shut down while driving?
Sonhouse
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 20, 2012
Why are these stupid ads allowed in a physics rag? The editors make a deal with those fullmalls.com people?
aaron1960
1 / 5 (4) Nov 20, 2012
Why do the leaf and any other electric car not have its exterior body completely covered in small solar cells to assist in recharging the battery? Many cars sit all day outside in parking lots and driveways under full sun exposure and much driving is done in the day light. They are making such a big deal about going just 10% farther. Sun charging while shopping or at work or parked outdoors should add significantly more range.
I am concerned that conventional automakers don't have enough desire to change from gas to electric and these feeble attempts and high price tags are just part of the public lip-service.
krundoloss
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 20, 2012
aaron1960 - You are spot on correct. Its as though the car companies just want to give the appearance that they are trying hard to produce electric cars. They do not really want to make electric cars because electric motors last forever, and they will be reducing their profits by huge amounts. I say, if you are going to do it, do it, dont make crappy electric cars with short range and without a battery meter!? Can they put the motors directly in the wheels? YES. Can they add solar cells to constantly recharge the batteries? YES. Can they build something with some decent range? YES. Why don't they do it? Its all about the money man!
Sonhouse
5 / 5 (1) Nov 20, 2012
I have talked about that for years and it seems the science boys are onto something now, better than traditional solar cells:

Solar PAINT! the paint itself as a solar power collector. I think in the lab the efficiency is somewhere around 6% but they are trying to get that up to 10 % or so. To me that is the ultimate for cars, charging the battery while parked in the sun. Of course that won't be such a big deal for underground garages but if I had a system like that in my car I would make sure it was parked in the sun if possible! I think you could eventually get 2 Kw out of the whole surface of the car, that would give a big boost in range right off the bat, maybe 10% say, for a 25Kwhr battery, just by itself and if you let the car charge for a couple of days you would probably have it fueled up.

I also thought about that for RV's, campers and such. They have a very large surface area and so if the solar paint idea comes about for real, it could generate maybe 5 Kw!
Shootist
1.7 / 5 (3) Nov 20, 2012
Why do the leaf and any other electric car not have its exterior body completely covered in small solar cells to assist in recharging the battery?


Simple. The value of money vs. additional watt/hrs for a system that needs kilowatt/hrs.
Daein
1 / 5 (3) Nov 20, 2012
Why do the leaf and any other electric car not have its exterior body completely covered in small solar cells to assist in recharging the battery?

The short answer is price. That would probably throw another ten grand on top of the already high price tag.

A small car that can only go 142 miles or so needs to be in the sub 10k range in cost in order to be competitive. What non-activist person would pay 30k for a car that only go 142 miles when you can get a similar sized car that will go 300 miles for only 11k and can be refueled in minutes at hundreds of thousands of locations throughout the world? I like the idea of electric cars, but no way would I pay that much for a car that does so little. Either the capability needs to go way up or the price needs to come way down (which it can't because of how expensive the battery and motor are to produce).
aaron1960
3 / 5 (4) Nov 20, 2012
the car companies have perfected making cars that breakdown within a 10 year maximum lifetime or less. This is to generate repeat buying of inferior and wastefull products and sustain the artificial economy of the auto industry at the expense of the environment and againt the public's best interest.
antialias_physorg
4.6 / 5 (8) Nov 20, 2012
Why do the leaf and any other electric car not have its exterior body completely covered in small solar cells to assist in recharging the battery?

Because the amount of power you'd get would be negligible.

Take a 10% efficient solar cell. Insolation in the US is about 5kWh per square meter per day. The area of a small car that faces the sun directly and could be covered with solar panels (i.e. minus windows) is about 2-3 square meters.

So you'd get about 1-1.5kWh per day (that is if you never park your car in a shaded area). A full battery charge of the leaf is 24kWh. So you'd get 4-6% of a charge per day under optimal conditions (about 15 cents worth). Not enough to make it worthwhile the additional cost.

antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (2) Nov 20, 2012
the car companies have perfected making cars that breakdown within a 10 year maximum lifetime or less.

Not all car companies do this. I drive a Smart roadster. It's exactly 10 years old now. All I had to change in all that time was the oil pan (twice, though), a couple of springs and a couple of light bulbs - and I'm close to the 200k km mark.
So there are car manufacturers that know how to make solid cars for a small price. It pays off. When I buy my next car I'll surely look in on what they have to offer first.
Lord_jag
5 / 5 (1) Nov 23, 2012
Electric cars emit no pollution, but they need to be recharged.
-----------
Why the 'but'??
Electric cars emit no pollution, AND they need to be recharged in the safety of your own home instead of refueled at a dirty gas station, possibly standing in the cold or heat for as long as 10 minutes.

The bias of the writer is evident.
Eikka
1 / 5 (2) Nov 24, 2012
The new model can travel 228 kilometers (142 miles) on a single charge, up from 200 kilometers (124 miles) as long as you don't use air conditioning, because of improvements such as streamlining the battery system and the vehicle's lighter weight, according to Nissan.


In other words - it can't, and it won't. Wait for the EPA/NEDC tests and you'll see. They just tweaked the car to perform better under optimal conditions on the test track.

The difference between optimal conditions and real world everyday driving conditions isn't linear, so the more they fool around playing tricks with physics instead of simply giving it a bigger battery, the larger the disrepancy between what it says on the brochure and what you actually get.

The old model got just 73 miles on EPA, and even that is a bit too high due to problems with the test.

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