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Nissan offers battery upgrade for Leaf drivers

Nissan offers battery upgrade for Leaf drivers
Now in its third model year, the Nissan Leaf uses lithium-ion battery technology to power along. (Wieck)

Nissan Leaf drivers throughout the U.S. will be able to upgrade to the latest lithium-ion batteries through a program costing $100 a month, the automaker announced Thursday.

Nissan's current policy guarantees it will fix or replace Leaf EV battery packs which fail to meet performance standards during the first five years of ownership or before 60,000 miles.

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Under the new program, starting early next year, drivers of the 2011, 2012 or 2013 models will be able to get a new battery installed in their vehicles. "We're trying to make our batteries backward-compatible as much as we can," said Brian Brockman, a representative of Nissan North America Inc.

Brockman said future generations of the car may not be compatible if there are modifications to the physical size of the battery.

Nissan recently repriced its base model Leaf for 2013 -- $28,800, down from $35,200 -- and added the option of upgrading to a 6.6-kilowatt battery, which comes standard on more expensive SV and SL models.

The battery program may also help sell new Leafs, but it aims mainly to reward the car's early adopters.

"It's really meant to appeal to people who have had the car for some time. We surveyed owners, and what we heard from them is they wanted the opportunity to upgrade, and get the assurance from Nissan that they would be covered for capacity loss at reasonable price," Brockman said.

There's no time constraint on participation in the program.

"I think this is a sign of how we interact with our customers. We try to provide solutions that take their opinions into account," Brockman said. "We think the number of owners who need this will be small, but we'll still offer it to anyone."

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