The Leaf is Nissan’s brand new all-electric car, and Japan’s No. 3 automaker is putting it up against the Prius and other hybrids as a much better value for the car buyer’s dollar.
The Leaf needs to recharge every 100 miles, but can be charged up at home for under a dollar, which means that no matter how far the price of a gallon of gasoline falls, the Leaf will probably be less expensive to run than any hybrid.
With hybrid sales zooming skyward, Nissan is hoping that consumers will see the value in spending a bit more on the Leaf than they would a Prius for better value over time. Hybrid sales now make up about 2% of all new car sales worldwide.
Larry Dominique, who is Nissan North America VP of Product Planning, says, “Hybrids won’t get you there, range extended (plug-in hybrids) won’t get you there. They’re good technologies, but for the mass market appeal, they have much bigger obstacles, especially on upfront cost. We are very confident that Leaf will give you a lower cost to ownership.”
Nissan is predicting that all-electric vehicles will take over ten percent of the global auto market sometime between 2016 and 2020.
The Leaf will be launched in the United States, Japan and Europe next year and sold to business and government fleet customers. Nissan recognizes that marketing a new vehicle that can only travel a limited range without recharging may be difficult in a place as large as the United States.
“It’s going to be hard to convince the guy who lives in Butte, Montana who has to drive 40 miles to the grocery store to buy an electric vehicle,” Dominique said. However, the 100 mile range before recharge is considered enough to cover the average commute, and Nissan believes that most drivers are concerned enough about the environment to be willing to make a move to an all-electric vehicle.
Recharging a Nissan Leaf will be as easy as plugging it in at home for around eight hours. It can also be topped off at electric recharging stations which may one day replace the corner gas station.
Public recharging stations are in the works and will be a joint project between Nissan, local utility companies and governments.
Once the recharging stations are set up, the Leaf will be available to car buyers in late 2010 with mass market release scheduled for 2012.