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The entry-level Leaf S will start at $31,698 before rebates; The Ontario rebate brings the price down to $23,198.


At a time when most companies are unveiling or actually delivering new 2014 models, Nissan has finally introduced its heavily upgraded 2013 all-electric Leaf, with the big news being a $6,697 price chop that brings its starting MSRP down to $31,698.

That's the price for a new entry-level S model, but it's no stripper, as it still includes a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, plus the new ability to charge in nearly half the time, thanks to an upgraded 6.6-kilowatt on-board charger. Once you factor in the $8,500 plug-in vehicle rebate in Ontario, the price drops to $23,198.

The post-provincial rebate starting price will be slightly higher in the provinces of Quebec and British Columbia, which offer $8,000 and $5,000 green car rebates, respectively, but will still be lower than the $26,755 average new-car purchase price in Canada, according to 2012 Statistics Canada figures. The price cut makes the Nissan Leaf the most affordable five-seat pure electric vehicle in the country, and brings its pricing in line with mainstream pricing for similarly sized mid-size vehicles, at least in the three provinces that offer rebates.

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Still no luck for potential Leaf buyers from other provinces looking for a provincial clean-car rebate, or a national clean-car tax incentive from Ottawa. The United States offers a deduction savings of up to $7,500 (U.S.) on all BEVs, with talk of increasing that tax rebate up to $10,000, on the basis that zero local emissions vehicles improve local health and air quality, as well as reduce U.S. dependence on oil sourced from unstable or unfriendly countries.

As a 2012 Leaf owner, what makes the price cut more palatable to those of us who paid full tilt – besides the extended time not having to pay for gas, oil changes, etc. – is that while the prices of the other trim levels have dropped, they haven't dropped as dramatically as its starting price. The up-level SV now starts at $34,998, down $3,397, which also includes a more efficient "hybrid" heater that reportedly helps increase driving range in winter.

Even though the car and the battery are produced in Nissan's Tennessee plant, the freight charge is actually up in Canada to $1,995, versus the $1,895 Nissan charged when the car came first came from Japan. Nissan Canada says this change happened part way through the 2012 model year, but either way, it's still a far cry from the $850 freight charged to Americans.

The 2013 Leaf is scheduled to go on sale in July at 68 EV-certified Nissan dealers – which is still far from all Nissan dealers. Nissan Canada wouldn't say how far behind the 2014 Leaf will arrive after this, but said the delay on the '13s was "based on production and market opportunities."

The top-line SL now starts at $38,398, representing a $2,497 savings, and adds leather seats and 17-inch alloy wheels that weren't available previously, as well as a DC quick-charger port, which can fill up an empty battery to 80 per cent charge within a half hour.

Canada to align emissions standards, fuel ratings with U.S

The Canadian government plans to decrease the economic, health and environmental hazards posed by vehicle emissions by aligning its laws with ones proposed in the United States for cleaner gasoline and more advanced emissions control systems in the next few years, Environment Minister Peter Kent announced recently.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unveiled the proposed Tier 3 rules in late March to take effect with 2017 vehicles.

Kent said the new rules will provide cleaner air to all Canadians, in an announcement at a dealership earlier this month in front of auto maker and oil industry trade group representatives. The new rules will reduce sulphur in all gasoline by two-thirds beginning in 2017, which the government says will reduce health and planet-harming light-vehicle pollution from all cars. The rules are meant to reduce the emission of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, the main contributors to the formation of ground-level ozone, and a primary component of smog.

"Once fully phased-in, these standards are expected to reduce smog-forming air pollutants from new vehicles by approximately 80 per cent compared to the current Tier 2 standards," said Kent.

Auto makers in both Canada and the U.S. are certainly on board.

"Through the reduction of sulphur in gasoline from 30 parts per million [ppm] to 10 ppm with a low sulphur cap, the government is reinforcing that a system approach to vehicles and fuels is necessary to maximize emissions reductions for the benefit of Canadians," David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada, said in an release about the new proposed rules. "It will enable auto makers to introduce new advanced technologies required to achieve the stringent greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency standards in place now and proposed through to 2025."

But in an e-mail this week, Adams also said there still existed the possibility of legal action against the proposed plans, in either country, though he said he didn't expect either government to back down on such rules at the advanced stage.

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Natural Resources Canada officials also confirmed this week that it will be similarly aligning its current two-cycle fuel-efficiency testing mandates to align with current five-cycle EPA testing methods by 2015, to apply to 2016 vehicles. This will result in an approximate 15 per cent increase in official fuel consumption figures, the Canadian Press reported last month, after a related access to information request by CP's Dean Beeby.

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