Nissan Plans for Improved LEAF EV in 2017

By · May 15, 2014

Nissan LEAF hood

Three years ago, the Nissan LEAF was the only pure electric car available to EV buyers. Now, with nearly 20 plug-in cars on the market—and the earliest of early adopters returning leased LEAFs after three years of use—Nissan has to work harder to earn sales of its EV.

Automotive News reported this week that Nissan will expand the LEAF’s range, and employ more mainstream styling, to make the small electric car more appealing. Best estimates put the release of a new and improved LEAF around 2017.

It will be a challenge to win the next wave of first-time (less committed) EV buyers. But it will be even more difficult for Nissan to convince the previous first generation of early EV adopters—now reaching the end of lease agreements—to remain loyal to Nissan.

Andy Palmer, Nissan executive vice president, said that better battery chemistry could increase range—although it seems unlikely that a 2017 car will bump up from about 80 miles today much beyond 100 miles, without significantly changing its competitive price. Oddly, Automotive News reported that Palmer said that 186 miles of range would be required to “present an everyday alternative to the hydrogen fuel cell cars that rivals are developing.” Fuel cell cars will only trickle out in very small numbers for the next several years.

Palmer and other Nissan executive have previously suggested that a future Nissan LEAF will have the option of multiple battery packs, offering different range levels.

In Automotive News, he confirmed that a new Infiniti EV—previously expected in 2014, but indefinitely delayed—is back on the table. A new sedan model could accommodate multiple battery pack sizes, if designed with bigger and multiple pack sizes in mind from the beginning. It’s uncertain how radically the LEAF hatchback would need to change to allow for multiple pack sizes—and how it would affect the price.

As 2017 approaches, the impending availability of a better LEAF could make remaining first-generation versions less desirable.

eBay now lists dozens of used 2011 Nissan Leaf electric cars priced around $15,000. That’s a great deal—less than half the original sticker price—on a battery-powered five-seat EV with a range of about 80 miles per charge. The low price can mostly be explained as a positive boomerang effect from the $7,500 federal credit, as well as state-based incentives. The incentives are only available to new, rather than used, plug-in cars. But the affordable price of a used LEAF already has those financial perks baked into the price.

On top of that, the $199 leases on new LEAFs put further downward pressure on the market for used EVs. And today's low lease prices potentially set a consumer expectation for EV pricing for future electric models.

Comments

· · 15 weeks ago

Give me 150 miles of range and I will gladly pay $45,000 for the LEAF 2.0. But please don't make me wait 3 more years. In reality, I will pay $45,000 for the first car, (Nissan, Tesla, BMW, Chevy, etc.) that offers a 150 mile EV in that price range. Our 2011 LEAF is a great car but it leaves us waiting more range about 10% to 15% of the time. 150 miles at $45,000 is my sweet spot.

· · 15 weeks ago

I wouldn't buy another Nissan under any circumstances. A horriblly hot Texas summer killed my Leaf battery. Range went from 90-100 miles to about 65 miles in two years and 25k miles. Nissan claimed my battery was "fine" and refused to fix it. The car was of no use to me and I could not run it enough to degrade the battery to Nissan's satisfaction. I am now a VERY happy Tesla owner with 35k miles.

· · 15 weeks ago

Nissan will have to up the range to compete with Tesla. It is interesting that Nissan started at the entry level while Tesla started at the top. In 2017 it looks like they will meet in the middle.

150 miles of range is a pretty good spot to be at. But single-charge range is only half of the equation. The other half is away-from-home charging. If this new Leaf can take advantage of the full 100kW potential of CHAdeMO, it will still quick charge as fast, but get twice as many miles from the session. The only remaining piece of the puzzle is roll out of the quick chargers. Clearly Nissan believed that others would roll out quick chargers (maybe they still believe they will eventually). This is the defining difference between Leaf 2.0 and Tesla Gen III. Tesla will already have their (free, 24/7) supercharger network in place, while Nissan will have a scattering of dealerships with CHAdeMOs available during business hours, typically off the beaten path.

· · 15 weeks ago

Time to push the concept of a standardized interface for a battery-based 'range extender' again. For MurrayT - and most people most of the time - existing battery capacities are sufficient RIGHT NOW. What is missing is the ability to quickly add additional power when you need it - and not before, especially if you have to pay an extra $10k to carry around something you are only going to need 10% of the time.

Unless and until pump-in battery charge capability arrives, renting ready-to-go charged batteries or cells seems to be the way to go. (Is it technically possible?)

· · 15 weeks ago

We've put almost 48K miles on our 2011 LEAF in over three years and its range is about 80% of what it was when new. Our relatively cool mountain location has helped the battery. Still, I'm disappointed because Nissan projected 80% capacity after five years, and I did take steps to "baby" the battery. Also, we'd really prefer to have more range.

We intend to keep the LEAF for local driving, but the next vehicle we purchase is highly likely to be a Tesla and unlikely to be a Nissan. Besides the range, I'm drawn by Tesla's impressive Supercharging infrastructure which mostly puts the unreliable patchwork of CHAdeMOs to shame.

All of that said, I'm thankful to Nissan for building our first EV.

· · 15 weeks ago

Oddly, Automotive News reported that Palmer said that 186 miles of range would be required to “present an everyday alternative to the hydrogen fuel cell cars that rivals are developing.” Fuel cell cars will only trickle out in very small numbers for the next several years.Well, if that ;)

That was odd alright. This is obviously BS, but it leaves me wondering what strategic value Palmer sees in acknowledging H2FC vaporcars as real-world competition. Nissan's pretty sure that H2FC is a dead end (Toyota and GM probably are as well, but it serves their purposes to pretend otherwise while simultaneously truly believing that BEVs are worthless), so I can only guess he's trying to avoid triggering a discussion that might provoke authorities to prod the H2FC fraudsters into upping their PH/B-EV game. I'm sure Nissan would just as soon they continued in their denialist napping.

But yeah, that is probably way too convoluted an analysis. I'm sure Palmer was just being polite ;-)

· · 15 weeks ago

@mckemie, So how bad does the Leaf battery have to get before they will replace it? Does it have to come in on a hook?

· · 14 weeks ago

"Three years ago, the Nissan LEAF was the only pure electric car available to EV buyers. Now, with nearly 20 plug-in cars on the market—and the earliest of early adopters returning leased LEAFs after three years of use—Nissan has to work harder to earn sales of its EV."

Yet another California-centric EV post.

Come here to Colorado, or indeed most of the states and Canada, and see how many pure EV alternatives you can find to the LEAF. It's the same as it was 2 years ago - one from Ford and one from Tesla. Although rumors of coming Mitsubishis, Kias, and BMWs continue to be whispered.

As far as the LEAF in 2017, I've long tired of parsing Andy Palmer's statements (or Elon Musk's for that matter) for hints of the future. What we know is this: Model Year 2015 will be basically 2013 with no 80% charge option and a few packaging tweaks. In the a same year Telsa will have another model that I can't afford out "sometime". And in a future year some time after that both hope to offer something better in my price range. As far as the others, for the time being Ford seems to have committed to the PHEV route with minimal Focus development, Toyota and Honda are committed to FCVs, and every other EV is either California compliance-only or will be here in such small numbers in middle America that you'll be lucky to find a dealer technician who knows them well.

· · 14 weeks ago

@RedLeaf: I share your impatience with cali-centrism, especially when compliance cars are treated as serious offerings instead of pathetic regulatory dodges. And yes, Ford obviously doesn't take the Focus Electric seriously. So no, for most of us, there certainly AREN'T nearly 20 competing models available for our EV shopping pleasure.

That said, it would be wrong to claim that the Leaf is the only reasonable alternative for non-coastal EV customers. The 2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Smart ED are not rumors. You can buy either one right now, in Colorado. Denver's Skyline and Christopher Mitsubishi dealerships are i-MiEV certified, and Smart Center Westminster offers the Smart ED. These aren't compliance cars, and both are at or under $25k (unless you want a convertible) BEFORE any tax credits are applied - so pretty affordable. The Smart's packaging is admittedly radical, but so is their intriguing battery leasing program, while the i-MiEV offers perfectly fine seating for 4 adults and a trunk bigger than a Volt's.

In your specific case, you might well have a LEAF-certified Nissan dealer in town (or at least in range), but no dealers for Smart or Mitsubishi electrics, though I'd note many potential customers of lower-volume brands in remote areas are in the same boat. As to your broader observation that non-LEAF EVs sell in "such small numbers in middle America that you'll be lucky to find a dealer technician who knows them well", I guess I'd say at that point you just give up on being an early adopter of anything and wait for the herd to get where you want to go. But that's your choice.

· · 14 weeks ago

@vike1108: I stand corrected - last night my son also informed me that the Mitsubishi and Smart cars are now available in Denver, although he told me the in-stock Smarts are only the more expensive soft tops. At least they are available!

You're right about the in-range situation (I can round-trip a LEAF dealer even on the coldest days on one charge, but couldn't do Mitsu or Smart without a charge en route both ways), but that's not what I was talking about - I was referring to simply having them in the same region for purchase.

So, we have 5. This is good. 1 more than we had two years ago (when the earlier Mitsu was also available).

· · 14 weeks ago

I have to correct the above again - there are no 2014 Mitsubishi's for sale in Colorado, and only one of the two dealerships vike1108 references even lists it as an available vehicle on the web site. I assume that during 2014 some will show up.

So, the original point stands - while California buyers are enjoying the option of "nearly 20" EVs on the market most of the rest of us are extremely appreciative of Nissan for being the only manufacturer to deliver *and promote* a pure EV nationwide for a price below that of the average household income.

· · 14 weeks ago

"employ more mainstream styling" - Hopefully!

The LEAF has some technical drawbacks, but I could have lived with those as a second vehicle if I didn't find it to be so darn ugly.

· · 14 weeks ago

@RedLeaf: Yes, the situation with the i-MiEV is complicated. I understand the Mitsubishi dealer in Ft. Collins has some grand plan to grab as many as they can get their hands on, so you might want to keep an eye on them - it's not too much to ask your local dealer to haul one down if you really want it. They do show a black one in inventory as of today (perhaps they're kidding). The Denver dealers I mentioned are listed by Mitsu as i-MiEV certified, which I assume means they can order and service the cars, though that doesn't necessarily mean they'll carry inventory (I think a lot of dealers got burned with 2012 white elephants when MMNA did absolutely nothing to promote the car).

Which brings us to promotion, and you're certainly right about that. Mitsu has always been inexplicably tight-lipped about the i-MiEV, to the point of seeming ambivalent about the whole project; such poor support for this model seems rather odd when you consider how much they're touting electrification in general. One dealer posted in a forum that order fulfillment was likely to run 5 months or so, which gives you some idea of the meager production levels they're targeting. If anyone's interested in the car and sees one on a lot, I'd say snag it.

Smart seems more enthusiastic about the ED, but I haven't been to a dealer to gauge the level of local commitment. I hope it's high - the ForTwo, like the i, is an idiosyncratic little platform that practically begs for an EV drivetrain to exploit its low mass virtues.

I was surprised when you lumped the Smart and Mitsu together range-wise, as I had only heard the Smart's pre-EPA numbers, when they were saying they'd be near LEAF range, if not better. Ha! Looking now, I see 68 is a lot closer to the i-MiEV's nominal 62, though I'd note I've never seen a range that low reported when starting out with a full charge (usually more in the 70s). Even so, it pays to err on the side of caution, especially since we know capacity/range will degrade somewhat over the years.

· · 13 weeks ago

Don't buy an EV because they promote free charging. It's very likely to be temporary to sucker people to buy their vehicle then they switch policy on you at a later date to no longer be free.
Especially for those that have bought or lease their Nissan leaf, it appears Nissan is no longer offering free quick charging to existing leaf customers around my area in CA. Even at my local Nissan dealer, EG Nissan, CA, where I bought the car and the fact that they said quick charging are free to their customers helped convinced me to buy it are No longer valid after April 16, 2014 is a Nissan Corporate decision. So if you ever do want to travel a little further than usual and had planned on using a quick charging station along the way, you will be in for a rude awakening that you will not be able to charge it. Even If you have a charge point card, that doesn’t work as their quick chargers are now maintain through a company NRG - ie. EVgo. EVgo charging fees are high in my opinion, requires a monthly subscription to get access to charging like quick chargers (each quick charging can cost $10.95 to charge for a 30 minute session). I found out the hard way last Saturday. Also that would make a leaf cost more than a Prius for energy. Took 20+ minutes on the phone, they ask for all sorts of information, almost like buying a car, then after signing up in hopes to get a quick charge in so I can get home, they end up telling me that it takes 72 hours to activate my account. So no quick charging for that day which I ended up needing to go to an L2 charging station for 3 hours. Very disappointed at Nissan, imo Nissan has alienated their existing leaf customers with a bait and switch on quick charging.

· · 13 weeks ago

My 3-year lease is up on July 21, 2014, and Nissan's treatment of me has virtually assured themselves of having an ex-customer. Not only have I been paying $399/mo (plus tax) for almost three years (insulting considering the current lease cost on a new loaded SL is much, much less), but with the conversion of their Quick-Charge stations to pay-to-play EVgo, it really feels like they are trying to alienate their most-loyal early adopters. Any Marketing 101 playbook would tell you to embrace your existing customers, as the acquisition cost of new customers is substantial. But Nissan seems to view us as disposable, and unworthy of their attention. No problem, I hear you loud and clear, and I'll gladly turn in my low-mileage Leaf and find someone else who likes me better!

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