Surge in Leaf demand prompts Nissan to mull output hike

Article by Anita Panait, on August 9, 2013

Nissan is drafting plans to start producing more Leaf units as dealers report increasing demand for the once-unpopular electric car. Bill Krueger, Nissan Americas vice chairman and senior vice president for manufacturing, purchasing production engineering and supply chain management, remarked that Leaf output will be increased in small and careful steps.

Krueger said that Nissan is already taking action to hike the output of electric motors from its Decherd engine site in Tennessee. The site is currently boosting its workforce to launch third shift -- a move that will provide Nissan with a third more electric motors starting this fall.

This will also ease up a critical pinch-point for Leaf production in the United States. Krueger remarked that Nissan will determine next month whether to add a second shift to its output of lithium-ion battery modules for the Leaf at its Smyrna plant in Tennessee.

Nissan’s dealers have been selling around 2,000 Leafs a month recently, a figure that is around three to four times its sales a year ago, when the electric car is still produced outside the US.

Nissan logged a 230-percent jump in sales of its Leaf EV in the US in the first seven months of 2013 to 11,703 units, compared to just 3,543 units in the period in 2012. The carmaker sold 1,864 Leafs in July 2013, compared with 395 units in the same month in 2012.

Decision makers at Nissan, however, want to wait until sales figures for August 2013 come in before deciding whether to increase output of the Leaf. Krueger remarked that the carmaker will make a decision in September, using August sales as a main factor.

In creating the new Nissan LEAF, both designers and engineers worked together to make sure that this model would not only be a real-world car that is priced competitively, it would also allow Nissan itself to lead mobility as it relates to the new period of zero-emission. Due to the new layout of the body and the use of new chassis, the new LEAF is able to deliver comfort, additional space, and extra cargo capacity.

Powering the new LEAF is the compact lithium-ion batteries which can deliver output of at least 90 kW. It also has an electric motor which has power of 80 kW with maximum torque measured at 280 Nm. Thus, it has a fun-to-drive experience and more responsive handling while continuing to showcase what its customers want from standard gas-powered vehicles.

The main advantage of the LEAF is that compared to the internal-combustion engine inside most vehicles, the powertrain in the LEAF does not have a tail pipe. This means it does not have any CO2 emissions, or any emission of greenhouse gases for that matter.

By combining the battery with the regenerative braking system, it enables the LEAF to be able to achieve driving range on a full charge of at least 160 km, or 100 miles. This may not be enough for some but extensive research on customer preferences reveals that this range is in fact just enough to meet the daily needs of at least 70% of drivers around the world.

Should the battery ever be drained, Nissan has made it a point to make recharging not only convenient but easy as well. Quick charging enables the battery of the LEAF to be charged to 80% of total capacity in barely 30 minutes. It is even possible to charge the LEAF at home through a standard 200-volt outlet. Full charge takes eight hours, enough time to also recharge the vehicle and the driver.

Product Chief Designer Masato INOUE shared that the LEAF is the first practical and medium-sized electric vehicle that is affordable and it’s something that customers would not hesitate to use on a daily basis. Indeed, this is what Nissan has made, he added. INOUE said further that the style will not only ensure that owners know it is a LEAF but having one means they support the age of new mobility and zero emissions.

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