Turning Over the All-New 2013 Nissan LEAF

By · March 27, 2013

Nissan Leaf at Chelsea Piers

The new and improved Nissan LEAF SL at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan. (Jim Motavalli photo)

The Nissan LEAF is now an American-made car, with many running improvements, and I got a chance to pilot one of the first off the line in Tennessee during the run-up to the 2013 New York International Auto Show. The car was great, too bad about that killer New York traffic.

A Slew of Upgrades

Sitting immobile in congestion in an electric car is just like in a gas vehicle, only quieter. The LEAF SL I drove—built just three months ago—was going nowhere fast, though I did get to see many of the upgrades in action, including the electric (not cable-operated) charge door release, the slicker climate control, and (more importantly) the much-improved heat pump-based cabin warmer, which had us toasty in 30 seconds flat. I sat on leather seats, too, something not possible in earlier LEAFs (it’s now part of a premium package).

The LEAF is in three models now, the base, plus the SL and SV. Brendan Jones of Nissan is willing to go out on a limb and predict that the mid-range SV ($31,800 before the $7,500 income tax credit) will claim 55 percent of the market; the upscale SL ($34,840) 25 percent; and the new base S ($28,800) just 20 percent. “For a base model trim, that’s a big play,” Jones said. “The base models are often in the 10 percent range.”

A Big Sales Jump?

With sales of 9,819 in the 2012 calendar year, and 1,303 to date in 2013, the LEAF is falling far short of projections. And that’s why Nissan is really sweetening the pot on the offering. The cheaper price (down $6,000 on the entry-level model) is complemented with a host of improvements, some of which are responding to consumer preferences. Minor improvements in aerodynamics (from a .29 to a .28), improved regenerative braking (with a new “B” setting that really dials it on—I felt like a MiniE driver), software upgrades, and some modest weight reductions (100 pounds) have led to a slightly better EPA range rating—75 instead of 73 miles.

In the real world, with a 100 percent charge, the LEAF is supposed to now get 84 miles on a charge, but the EPA test process doesn't give full credit for these improvements.

Even the Stereo is More Efficient

Is there more? You bet. The 3.3-kilowatt charger is still in the base car, but the upper strata gets a twice-as-fast 6.6-kilowatt unit, which has been relocated up front to increase cargo space. What you see under the hatch now is the woofer for the Bose stereo (in models so equipped). That Bose unit is a real tour de force, cutting electric consumption by 50 percent compared to standard installations.

Nissan Leaf at Chelsea Piers

The LEAF's changes are mostly under the skin. (Jim Motavalli photo)

A more efficient amplifier means smaller cooling fins, and a much smaller and lighter (650 grams vs. one kilogram) unit overall, explains Bose’s John Pelliccio. The speakers are also smaller. Versions of this stereo are also in the Chevy Volt and Fiat 500, but this is the first application in an all-electric car.

Staying With CHAdeMO

The 110 charger has been redesigned so the plug stays in the wall, but the CHAdeMO fast-charge port is staying put, despite the imminent arrival of the Society of Automotive Engineers’ “combo” plug (Level 2 and Quick-Charge alI in one unit). “Nissan is committed to CHAdeMO,” said Higginbotham. “We’re not making any changes there unless something happens in the marketplace.”

The Chevrolet Spark EV is the first electric car I’ve seen with the combo plug, but it’s likely to become more widely deployed as American and European automakers play catch-up with pure EVs in the American market. Since LEAFs with CHAdeMO are ubiquitous, we’re likely to see fast chargers with wands for each choice.

Higginbotham was still talking, and I was inching along in bumper-to-bumper traffic near the old West Side Highway. I abandoned plans to visit Grant’s Tomb and turned the car around, achieving my fastest times of the day in the parking lot at Chelsea Piers. Yes, electric cars are city cars, but New York traffic presents unique challenges.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

"That Bose unit is a real tour de force, cutting electric consumption by 50 percent compared to standard installations."

What's the difference in watts between the old and new stereos?

· · 1 year ago

@SpiralEv

Presumably they have the same thing in the volt, an ultra-efficient Bose Stereo. The bose unit sounds great in my 2011, but all the rest of the junk in the car (27 computers supposedly) makes the battery go dead in about 2 1/2 hours.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The very first car I was aware of as a very small child was my parents' 1959 red Chevy Biscayne with the only option being an energy efficient Delco AM radio (only drew a bit over 1 1/4 amps as compared to 7 amps for a vibrator supplied radio, and much much smaller since no 250 volt power supply was needed --> the whole thing even the 4 signal tubes ran on 13.8 volts). Of course, the next car we had was totally transistorized and drew even less.

We remember grandparents saying "Don't listen to the radio without the engine being on, otherwise the car won't start.".

So I'm of the age where in my lifetime the only car that statement applied to is my 2011 volt.

· · 1 year ago

"but all the rest of the junk in the car (27 computers supposedly) makes the battery go dead in about 2 1/2 hours. "

You know that you can turn on the radio without turning on the Volt, right?

· · 1 year ago

@MMF

No I didn't. I thought there were only 2 ways to turn on the accessories.. With my 2011 its essentially impossible to turn the radio off, so I just turn down the volume. The newer models are a bit better so I'm told, but the 2011 was designed with engineering arrogance. And it was clinched when I asked to talk to someone knowledgable about it and was told I was not allowed... Yeah. I'm only the dumb schmuck who came up with the 46K.

· · 1 year ago

Bill, please sell your electric cars, give the incentive money back to the oil cartel, and stop bashing electric cars for a living. Life is too short. Find something that you can feel as passionate about, that doesn't help hold our society and evolution back. Consider stamp collecting. Thank you in advance, from all of us that know electric cars are the key to solving so many problems, and that want to to promote their many advantages (and that get sick and tired of hearing your shit all the time).

· · 1 year ago

Well excuse me Fred, im satisfied with my purchases, but that doesn't mean there aren't any issues along the way. I'm not being paid in any way to be here, so I'm don't have any financial interest in promoting any particular product, other than mentioning I make money (pennies) when people buy Solar Panels. Others (not you) have said they appreciate my perspective, so I'm afraid you'll have to tolerate my commentary a bit longer. As you said I do own them, so I feel allowed to comment on them.

And by the way, you'll notice I am the ONLY one here commenting on POLLUTION other than hydrocarbons and man-made global warming. Not sure why, but Im the ONLY one.

If you're worried about the Arctic, Declining Solar output, or holes in the ozone layer, I'd agree with you THAT is a man mind problem, but its due to Aluminum and Barium Oxide ChemTrails. Click on this link then watch the 28 minute video (scroll a bit down and click the arrow).

http://www.zengardner.com/censored-dane-wigington-geoengineering-intervi...

They show several interesting pictures of interiors of planes, and the end result, dead forests.

While watching the above link you may also want to watch the 'link within a link' which brings up the 94 minute movie "What in the world are they Spraying?", and its sequel, "Why in the world are they Spraying"?

I'd think Northern Californians would be very interested in this, since all these silly spraying programs (and its not a trivial amount, the video says its in the neighborhood of 20 million tons of Aluminum and Barium ) since its killing your forests. And its becoming a world wide problem since the fish are dying (as if growing radiation from Fukushima isn't enough of a problem in the Pacific Ocean, and radioactive Vermont Milk).

This is another reason why its so important to realize the beneficial 'naturalness' of carbon dioxide. Here's what I mean:

These SILLY SCIENTISTS are saying since there's so much 'pollution' already in the air (UNTRUE, as per above) , that 20 million more tons of VERY TOXIC Bioavailable Aluminum and Barium ain't gonna hurt.

Its true Bauxite is a huge portion of the earth's crust, but the key difference is it isn't Bioavailable to cause toxicity.

Since so many forests worldwide are dying, and ocean problems, the world wide oxygen level is already going down,

I wish more people would get concerned about these real problems and let go of the fake ones.

.

· · 1 year ago

@Bill,

Really? That stinks. I know that even in 2012 models, the software varies. My co-worker's 2012 Volt config menu is completely different from mine and our Volt is only 6-months apart.

But in my Volt, you can turn on the radio by pressing the Power/Volume button and you don't even need keys for it (I think that is a problem)...

· · 1 year ago

@Modern Marvel Fan

Great idea, I've never tried that........ I'll get back to you.

In general though, the new lower priced Leaf (I really like the stripped model) since it has everything I want and nothing I dont, at a very attractive price.

This car along with the basic smart42ev should make electrics alot more affordable for alot more people. I wish them well.

· · 1 year ago

@Modern Marvel Fan

It worked! I'll have to do a long test and see if it drains the battery soon. Thanks MMF !!

(GM's official resolution to the problem was, "Don't listen to the radio in the garage" ) !!

· · 1 year ago

Did Nissan make any changes to the creep and/or the regen on the 2013 Leaf? Are either of these adjustable by the driver, other than using the "shifter" to use the different modes?

· · 1 year ago

@Bill Howland,

I share your experience with some of the GM service department. I think that is one of the area that needs some improvement.

I complained to them about the stock EVSE NOT working with Sun Power's solar panel at work. They told me to lower the setting to 8A. I told them that that is NOT the problem. They stopped responding to me. My work place has 1MW solar installation. In order to save money, they tap off the inverter side with a standard 3 phase transformer. But the waveform has tons of voltage ripple on it. It looks like some of the switching noise got on the waveform. Those ripples are as large as 37V on a 120V powerline. Those ripples are resetting my EVSE and EVSE thinks it is "faulty" power so it cuts power to the car for protection. That resetting is eventually going to kill my EVSE and the A/C pumps in the car for temperature regulation. So, I end up getting a seperate EVSE that is no longer sensitive. To be fair, This sensitivity is NOT unique to Volt's EVSE. The Prius Plugin at work has the same problem and their EVSE just report an error code and stop charging. Nissan's EVSE doesn't seem to have this issue.

Anyway, I sent all the information and even oscilliscope trace and measurement to GM and heard nothing back. All they replied is an email that says, "if you have issue charging, please lower the setting to 8Amp..."

· · 1 year ago

@Modern Marvel Fan

Alas, this time (please don't get mad at me) I'm siding with GM. The owner's manual states the car will only charge from Utility Grade power. This means less than 3% THD (Distortion). The prius is having trouble so you say, but I have a good home made "farmer" type solution for you. Buy a 1 1/2 horsepower energy efficient motor and a 1000 watt 120 volt alternator. Then the power going to the Volt will be as clean as the alternator you buy, just make sure you get an 'inverter duty' motor so that the spikes don't prematurely kill it.

The only next thing is which expense account at work to charge this to.

I could suggest a PI - L network electronic filter, but I'd need an oscilograph of the incoming wave form at the point of failure. ( I assume the waveform gets bad just at the wrong time, and no-load (before charging), its not so bad). If its really crappy, the old fashioned motor-generator set will be the cheapest and troublefree..

I gather they won't let you plug into utility power at work because they have to pay for it?

· · 1 year ago

@Modern Marvel Fan

Oh, there is a brand EVSE that will work? I don't understand how this makes life for the onboard 3.3kw volt charger any easier.. And as I say, since the owner's manual specifically specifies clean juice, any failure of the onboard charger wouldn't be covered by the warranty.

· · 1 year ago

@Modern Marvel Fan

I don't know what kind of stuff you have just laying around work, but hooking 2 - 1kva isolation transformers back to back will probably clean up the waveform enough that it should work. In other words,

Plug to transformer 1 primary (120 volts)

Hook transformer 1 secondary (120 volts) to primary #2 (120 volts)

Take juice from secondary of #2 (120 volts).

· · 1 year ago

@Bill Howland,

So, there is a "spec" for power and THD? Can you show me a link for that? If that is the case, then I have enough information to complain to Sun Power and I can help my work place to get this fixed. I would really interested on finding out all the power line spec. (in my home solar installation, I don't see the similar ripple).

Well, the 1MW solar system is connected to the main grid through industrial transformer. On cloudy days, it will draw power from the grid. When the grid power is down, so will the 1MW solar system. The ripple is NOT detectable on the grid side or in the building. The ~ 1.2KHz ripple is probably filtered out naturally by the main transformer.

Currently, I am using a Clipper Creek LCS-25 and it has no problem. In fact, I sent the scope picture to their engineer before I bought the unit. CC is great and they confirmed with their engineers that this won't affect their EVSE operation. In fact, the Voltage is NOT even 240V. It is only 208V b/c the electrician only tapped off 2 phase of the 3 phase so the 120V aren't exactly out of phase by 180 degree.

Anyway, the modified EVSE from Leaf (through EVSEupgrade.com) doesn't have problem. Neither does my Clipper Creek unit. So, that is solution that I am using. Both the Prius Plugin and Volt EVSE reports "bad power" in their error display.

Personally, I don't think this ripple should affect the Volt charger on board since the charger really just converts the AC to DC. The ripple should hardly make a difference on the front end rectifier...

· · 1 year ago

@Modern Marvel Fan

You need to download your utility's "Specification for Electrical Installations" (I'm assuming you have Pacific Gas). I will try looking at their website later and see if i can find a page number for you. But I would be almost certain these days they quantify what distortion they will allow on their lines.

Its not that the utility distorts, they are probably close to perfect, but its only neighboring customers distorting your line, or in this case your sunpower unit yourself. You are distorting your own line, and so the utility's spec is basically how much you are allowed to ruin the 'perfect' line they've given you.

I dont have a schematic diagram of the internal car charger, but most of these car chargers in the car will require an Upconverter since the voltage to charge the car is not high enough to charge a 350 - 400 volt battery without one (Via trucks is 630 volts).

Since they cannot control whether 86 volts or 128 volts will be applied, its the most straightforward way, other than using non-transistorized voltage multipliers.

But seeing as these are most likely upconverters, spikes will impact them and possibly be outside of the "Safe Operating Area" of the power semiconductor.

I don't think GM would warn against it if there was absolutely no concern.

Oh, the juice at work in most larger commercial buildings will be 120YCosine 120 Deg, *2; or 120(.866)*2 or 208 volts.

· · 1 year ago

National Grid / Specification for Electrical Installations / April 2010
For the latest authorized version, please refer to the company’s website at http://www.nationalgridus.com/electricalspecifications.
Table 10.5-1 Harmonic Current Limits for Non-Linear Loads at the Point-of-Common-Coupling
(PCC) with Other Loads, at Voltages of 120V to 69kV
Notes:
1. Even harmonics are limited to 25% of the odd harmonic limits above.
2. *All power generation equipment is limited to these values of current distortion, regardless
of actual Isc/IL.
3. Where Isc = Maximum short circuit current at PCC.
4. And IL = Maximum load current (fundamental frequency) at PCC.
5. For PCC’s from 69 to 138 kV, the limits are 50 percent of the limits above. A case-by-case
evaluation is required for PCC’s of 138 kV and above.
Table 10.5-2 Harmonic voltage limits for power producers (Public Utilities or Non-Utility Generators)
*For start-up, inrush conditions, limits can be exceeded by 50%.
10.6 POWER SUPPLY TO VOLTAGE SENSITIVE EQUIPMENT COMPUTERS AND SENSITIVE
EQUIPMENT
Customers who use computers, microprocessor controlled equipment, solid state devices, x-ray equipment,
or other voltage sensitive electronic equipment should consider the installation of auxiliary devices designed
to protect this equipment from power disturbances. These power disturbances may be in the form of voltage
sags or surges, spikes, temporary loss of power, or any other deviation from normal. The Customer may have
to safeguard this equipment by the application of line filters, solid state line-voltage regulators, transient suppressors,
isolating transformers, uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems or motor generators. Utility distribution systems
normally operate between certain voltage limits as established by National Standards and state rules. The
Company should be contacted for further guidance.
10.7 ISOLATION TRANSFORMER
Where lighting or other reduced-voltage equipment is permitted from existing 3-phase, 3-wire, delta non-standard
services, isolation transformers are required. The secondaries of these isolation transformers shall be properly
grounded. The minimum number of single-phase transformers that may be used to serve the reduced-voltage
load on a 3-phase, 3-wire service is shown in the following table:
MAXIMUM HARMONIC CURRENT DISTORTION IN % OF FUNDAMENTAL
HARMONIC ORDER (ODD HARMONICS)
I sc /I L < 11 11 < h < 17 17 < h < 23 23 < h < 35 35< h THD
< 20*
20-50
50-100
100-1000
>1000
4.0
7.0
10.0
12.0
15.0
2.0
3.5
4.5
5.5
7.0
1.5
2.5
4.0
5.0
6.0
0.6
1.0
1.5
2.0
2.5
0.3
0.5
0.7
1.0
1.4
5.0
8.0
12.0
15.0
20.0

· · 1 year ago

@Modern Marvel Fan

The foregoing chart from my utility didn't format right. In general , it says that for most customers, no harmonic is allowed more than 4% of the fundamental. (More distortion is allowed if the interference is allowed to go through a high-reactance transformer (indicated by a limited short circuit current ratio, then 20% distortion is allowed, but then YOU have to suffer YOUR OWN distortion). The High reactance transformer isolates the power company from your noisy equipment.

I spent hours looking through PG&E's greenbook. I didn't find it because they could conceivably consider it proprietary, or too complex a subject to address. But my Utility, National Grid's policy is very typical and could be used with Sun Power. As I mention, an isolation transformer anywhere in the line will clean things up considerably.

As far as the 1kva isolation transformers i mentioned to try, sometimes at work you might have "SOLA (brand) line conditioners", which may have isolation transformers in them, so its something to experiment with prior to spending any $.

· · 1 year ago

@Bill Howland,

Thanks for those information. Now, I think the problem is that the EV charging post are tapping off the power on the inverter side of the transform. So those ripples are filtered out once they get over to the grid side. Our work place tapped off the power on the inverter side to save money b/c it was ONLY designed to power the lights under the solar panel and it extended to the EV charging spot under the solar panels.

I will ask my work place facility to follow up on that.

I am NOT sure if the car inverter is under a risk. If the inverters are properly designed, it shouldn't matter. For 3.3KW, it would properly step up to 400V plus and then rectify to DC. And I would think it uses differential input of the two "hot" lines. So, the 208V would produce close to 340 peak-to-peak AC Voltage. So, those ripples should be well within the component stress level for the power level we are talking about.

Also, I can NOT find any Level 2 EVSE standard out there to say what kind of "noise" or "distortion" it allows. So, GM has to design the car correctly to account for those kind situation. Especially if GM expects to sell this car in 3rd world countries. GM can't limit Volt only to charging on GM's EVSE. There are so many EVSE on the market today, it has to be compatible to all J1772 EVSE out there...

Anyway, I will use your harmonic spec as a reason to ask Sun Power to fix this. I have Solar City at home and it doesn't have this issue. I guess that is one knock against Sun Power.

· · 1 year ago

@Modern Marvel Fan

I seem to remember someone having a problem with the Volt, but everything I've tried so far charges the VOLT just fine. Since there are so many volts around, at least it seems every EVSE manufacturer makes sure the Volt will work with it...As I've mentioned before, even though some people have had trouble with the 110 EVSE that comes with the car, all 3 models that have been sold with the car (i've had 2 of the 3 models that made it to retail), and had absolutely no trouble at all, other than with silly issues. The one that comes with the 2013 Volt is the most conservatively designed of all. It should last 20 years.

The only compatibility issues I've had is with my Tesla. But then, my 2011 is a (by EV standards) ancient 2008 design, and at THAT time, it was 3 dudes in a garage in their spare time, so they can be forgiven I guess for not thinking of everything.

· · 1 year ago

@Bill,

I am jealous of Leaf's EVSE though. Especially after it gets upgraded by the EVSEupgrade.com so it can be used as a 240V and 120V EVSE. I think every plugin maker should offer something like that. But maybe their corporate lawyer and NEC regulators don't like that...

· · 1 year ago

@Modern Marvel Fan

Happy Easter...

The upgrade things are not allowed by the National Electrical Code (but privately I'd say "so what?", since the upgrades are very conservatively designed and I think the whole concept of the 'approved' EVSE's are just 'collusion-based, but then many things with the NEC are like that).

Thats not saying that i'd buy any and all of the 'approved things'. Look at the blinks and honda chared 'firestarter' plugs.

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