Nissan upgrades Leaf, drops price

TOKYO, Japan — The upgraded Nissan 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 on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at a Tokyo hotel, were based on feedback from owners whose chief worry was running out of electric juice while driving, Nissan officials said.

ADDRESSING CUSTOMER CONCERNS


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 on a single charge, up from 200 kilometers as long as you don't use air conditioning, due to improvements such as streamlining the battery system and the vehicle's lighter weight, according to Nissan.

It sells for less than the Rand equivalent of R275 000 in Japan when stripped of fancy options and adding government green subsidies — and more affordable than the cheapest previous model at R328 000.

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

Nissan South Africa is expected to launch the Leaf in SA in 2013.

TOP EV

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.

Senior vice president Masaaki Nishizawa told reporters the Leaf does away with the hassles of going to fuel stations and allows drivers a cleaner conscience.

He said: "People who try out the Leaf are moved, but they are worried about cruise range."

When the Leaf first went on sale, recharging facilities were at 200 Nissan dealerships in Japan. That will grow to 1200 locations, by the end of 2012, including 500 extra dealers and other spots such as shopping centres.

Among other changes to the Leaf:

— Roomier luggage space after the recharging mechanism was made 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.
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