Nissan begins U.S. assembly of the 2013 Leaf, introduces lower-priced version image

Nissan announced it is introducing a lower-priced version of its Leaf EV as the company begins production of the car in Tennessee.

For 2013, the world’s largest seller of electric vehicles adds an entry level S grade Leaf that’s cheaper than the SV and SL models sold in the U.S. since late 2010. Nissan didn’t provide prices, but said all 2013 Leaf models have improved electric range, while recharge time for SV and SL grades falls to fours hours from about seven hours currently (from a 220-volt outlet).

“The refinements and enhancements for 2013 hit at the core of customer requests during Leaf’s first two years,” said Al Castignetti, Nissan’s vice president of U.S. sales. Among those are a faster charger time, better range, optional leather seats and high-end audio systems.

U.S. production of the Leaf has begun at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee, plant, following last year’s opening of the the company’s largest lithium-ion battery plant in the town. The investment was funded with a federal loan from the U.S. government worth as much as $1.4 billion.

Base prices for the 2012 SV and SL Leafs are $35,200 and $37,250, respectively, before a $7,500 federal tax credit. Pricing of the 2013 model Leafs is to be announced later.