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.

New to EVs? Start here

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