Is The New Nissan LEAF A Market-Changing Electric Car?

2 months ago by Steven Loveday 52

Nissan LEAF

2018 Nissan LEAF

TIME says the all-new 2018 Nissan LEAF may impress even a “hardened electric-vehicle skeptic”.

Yes, TIME’s Justin Worland admits upfront that he’s an “uninitiated electric-car operator” that was surprised by the LEAF. Further, he touts its silent operation, fast acceleration, regenerative braking, and sleek exterior. However, aside from all of that, Worland points out that Nissan is banking more on the car’s value as the tipping point.

2018 Nissan LEAF

Inside the 2018 Nissan LEAF

The LEAF is less expensive than its two main rivals, the Chevrolet Bolt and the Tesla Model 3. It also offers less range.

However, Nissan has shared that its feeling that some customers are more concerned with price and value than the longest range, and for those who disagree, the automaker will welcome a ~60 kWh/225 mile, long-range model for 2019.

Nissan’s director of electric-vehicle marketing and sales, Brian Maragno, explained:

“We only set out to design, produce and sell a mass-market electric vehicle … (That) means affordability, with the right balance of content and capabilities.”

With the LEAF’s ~$30,000 price point, the car could be ridiculously cheap if the buyer can secure the entire $7,500 U.S. federal EV rebate, as well as a state or local rebate on top; especially so if incentives are rolled into leases. Not all states offer rebates or incentives and some are better than others, but even with just the federal rebate, the price of the LEAF is cut by a quarter, and leases could be as low as $199/month almost immediately upon launch in January.

Though the Nissan LEAF’s price and value are surely key factors, which will potentially lead to its success, Josh Linn, an energy and environment researcher at the nonpartisan think tank Resources for the Future, still believes that the EV image is what is holding people back. Factor in the LEAF’s compelling redesign and we may have a real winner here. He shared:

“The greater demand over time will stimulate automakers to invest in technologies, and eventually that will have an effect on the U.S. market. The bigger challenge right now is how consumers perceive the vehicles.”

While the LEAF is not nearly as sporty as Tesla’s offerings by a long shot, it’s come a long way with the new design. At the same time, the Chevrolet Bolt has received its own share of negative press for its strange design and lack of sporty, good looks. Not to mention its price-point for its comparable size class.

A base Bolt with the full federal EV rebate costs what a LEAF costs with no rebate. This has been a hard pill to swallow for some hoping that large-scale OEMs like General Motors could really dive headfirst into the “affordable” EV race.

Similarly, the Tesla Model 3 is a bit less expensive than the Bolt, but you can’t get the base model now and won’t be able to for quite some time – and is there any guarantee that $35,000 base MSRP will live much longer than the first few deliveries (as we saw with the Model S). Heck … you can’t get any model now and may have to wait 12-18 months for that to change. The LEAF will arrive soon and we aren’t anticipating any major availability issues.

A slew of automakers are bringing competing vehicles to market, but it’s not set to happen soon enough. In the meantime, the LEAF may rise up. Maragno is confident, yet reserved:

“Our parents, our parents’ parents, our parents’ parents’ parents never drove a car like this. We’re talking about generations of internal-combustion vehicles, and now we’re making a switch. Behind the wheel, I feel confident that previous generations would have gotten used to it. The LEAF may or may not reinvigorate the electric-vehicle market, but at the very least, no one who sets eyes on this car or gets behind the wheel can say electric cars have nothing to offer.”

Source: TIME

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52 responses to "Is The New Nissan LEAF A Market-Changing Electric Car?"

  1. Bonaire says:

    As someone who doesn’t live in the vaunted Silicon Valley and/or Palo Alto, I am yet another flyover state person who believes in price and value. Good to see Nissan also believes it.

    I am also someone who believes that for EVs to take hold in the consumer base, their price must match ICE vehicles – at the same trim levels, without incentives.

    I believe we must reach “the 20s”. This is a simple numerical formula. Commuter BEV sedan with 200 mile range for $20,000 base price by 2020. The 20s. Once car companies can deliver this, EVs will become a consumer demanded item.

    It is not all about acceleration, vanity, range, prestige. It is about using the car as a tool for transportation and making it an economic math problem. Get enough public charging stations out there and offer cars at the same price level as ICE. That’ll do it.

    1. Doggydogworld says:

      Price parity at the low end will not happen, and people need to quit saying it will.

      A 200 mile EV has a $10k fuel tank instead of a $50 one. The entire Versa doesn’t cost $10k to build. Even if battery cost falls from $10k to $6k over the next 8-10 years, you still can’t reach purchase price parity. Not even close.

      EV drive trains cost less. At the high end, e.g. 400 hp, that cost savings is substantial and can offset a big chunk of the battery cost. At the low end, though? No chance.

      Life cycle cost is a better story, but people don’t buy LCO. The driving force behind EV sales going forward will be emission bans in cities.

      1. Tim Miser says:

        I was paying $250 a month in fuel to drive my pickup in 2012. I leased a Leaf for $199 a month solely to save money and not rack up miles on my pickup. My choice of going electric was strictly monetary.

        1. William says:

          Same here!

        2. zzzzzzzzzz says:

          Tim:
          Maybe you are special and have access to cheap electricity. Others may take advantage and piggy-back their charging to solar net-metering subsidy. These are all government incentives the previous poster is talking about. Average person pays $0.13/kWh in the US and it is cheap compared to many other developed countries.

          As for the choice truck vs smaller car, it doesn’t sound serious. Any economy car is cheaper to keep than a truck, not just electric. You can get 58 mpg Ioniq Hybrid for $23k or something like that. Or for $219/month for 36 months with $1,999 at signing. Gasoline BEFORE ~$0.5/gal road taxes in the US is something like $2/gal.
          That means 3.4 cnt/mile for fuel and 22 cnt/mile for lease at 1000 miles/month. You are saving nothing or mouse nuts compared to electricity at $0.13/kWh that you use 30kWh/100 miles, or 3.9 cnt/mile. Or just loosing if your electricity is not so cheap, and need to keep another car for road trips.

          Now when you can’t get to the London downtown without paying hefty access fee, that is the real incentive to use cars in fee-free “75 g CO2/100 km” category. These are almost all zero tailpipe emission cars, although part of hybrids like Auris Hybrid or some Priuses are also reaching this threshold now. Or try paying some $15k for local license plates to get into Shanghai – electrics are exempt. No mouse nut counting can compete with such mandates.

          1. William says:

            Remember first two years lease on Leaf is No Charge to Charge. That is 30 k mi/ 2 yr. in my lease case, Mouse Nuts to drive except $169.oo per month chump change!

            1. DJ says:

              Way to mention that. Now we’ll have to listen to SparkEV wine about it 😀

              I really can’t wait for the next couple of years. Will be very interesting to see all the EVs that become available. Still may not be worth it for me to buy vs lease but nothing wrong with getting a new car in 3 additional years time 😀

              1. William says:

                Sparky is late to the game, he must be waiting in SD for a CHAdeMO FC spot to open up!

                1. SparkEV says:

                  I was waiting for Bolt. It seems many (most?) Leaf and i3 free chargers are scared away thanks to all the waiting for free charging Bolts.

                  Free charging SUCKS!!!

          2. Mark.ca says:

            “solar net-metering subsidy”
            What a tool this zzzzzzz guy is! I just can’t believe someone can be this ignorant. I was charging my ev at x3 less $ compared to gas even before installing solar. He is part of a select group of idiots that a few year ago would badmouth Prius because it’s “ugly and slow” but now suddenly the Prius and other similar hybrids are the car to drive just so you stay away from evs.

            1. Get Real says:

              Yup, he certainly has a personal reason for being an unapologetic shill for Big Oil and the Fool Cells/H2 unicorn.

        3. John Ray says:

          Yup. Same here. Went from a Jeep Cherokee getting 17 mpg to a LEAF. My monthly expenses were practically a wash and I got a new car.

          1. ModernMarvelFan says:

            If LEAF can replace your Jeep, then you never need a Jeep in the first place.

            You could have gone with Prius and save nearly as much.

            I am glad that you drive electric car now.

            1. Mark.ca says:

              Lots of people don’t need the cars that they are driving. Many trucks are grocery haulers.
              Same here, went from an old 17 mpg SUV to a eGolf lease and pay around $10/month after all the savings.

        4. In my own case, I don’t spend enough on Fuel for Monthly Commuting to make the case for an EV just for a Commuter Vehicle, but I have had an interest in EV’s since 1980 when I saw my first one, a Bradley GT II Kit Car, made as an EV by GE!

          Then I bought an EV Conversion of a Firefly (Geo Metro) – in 2006, and while it was Cheap to buy, it was in need of Big Bucks on the Auto side for repairs!

          Still, even as a Lead Acid ‘Lead Sled’, it had enough acceleration (with a new set of batteries) to impress a few people, even with just a 20.9 Hp DC Motor!

          Since my Commuting Gas Costs, in my 2010 ICE Kia Soul are only about 2 Tanks a month, or $85-$100 tops, Simply ‘Adding’ an EV ‘to save on Gas’, is not an easy math win, since it also adds an insurance cost on top of my present insurance cost, plus an extra parking spot would need to be found!

          My vacations consist of about 80% travel by Driving, and 20% via Flights, so ability to travel Long Distances in the EV, and switch completely from the ICE Soul, to the EV are my figured needs, so an extended wait for a Long Range Model 3, to make it to Ontario, Canada, is the ‘Fix’ I need. At least that is my reasoning for getting an early start on that, on March 31st, 2016!

          That said, a 150 Mile, or 250 Km Range per Charge Leaf, if the Canadian cost was right, could still be a good case, as it would cover All My day to day Commuting Needs, 90%+ of my Weekend Driving Needs, and with a little planing, the occasional 200 mile day trip up North to Bracebridge, ON! That woul just leave getting a rental ICE Vehicle, from one of the 3-5 Nearby Car Rental Lots, for the Long Vacation Drives!

          So, if there was no Tesla Model 3 Option, or plan in my life, this Leaf could do Most of what a Bolt EV could do, for a sizable cost savings!

          If their was no Model 3 or Leaf, the Bolt EV, if I could get one, in Canada (2017’s are sold out of their ‘Canadian Alotment’, and 2018’s, almost sold out as well!), the bolt would cover a bit easier, everything short of my Vacation long distance driving Plans!

          I bet there are more people like me in a similar situation, even in Canada!

      2. ziv says:

        Doggy, a 200 mile BEV has about a 55 kWh pack which costs around $150 per kWh, plus around 20% for thermal management so it is about $9,900 today, but the price is dropping around 10-12% per year so the average 55 kWh pack will be around $8800 in 2018 and $7840 in 2019 and $6980 in 2020. Obviously, those numbers are SWAG and the real numbers could be higher, but I would bet the real world number in 2020 will be lower.

        Combine the falling pack price with the fact that an electric drive train/motor costs less than an ICE drive train/engine, and the BEV isn’t that far behind the ICE on price. Yes, the gas tank costs less than the pack, but the rest of the equation is in the BEV’s favor.

        I think the next 2 years are going to be very interesting as the impact of the Tesla 3 is felt all over the automotive industry.

      3. Harold T says:

        Ford CEO said the EV costs 30% less labor hours to build, 50% less capital investment and 50% of the manufacturing space. Yes, batteries are expensive, but the cost across the board are being cut with this shift.
        The Value statement is really the thing to look at. Driving around a car with 200+ miles of range for your 40 mile commute is a lot of cash tied up in a car that depreciates and is not used. The key to EVs is charging, charging, and more charging. As in faster and more access to charging places. Range is only needed if you can’t find a way to charge and charge fast. Capacity offsets charging time and availability to charging points. What are you willing to pay to gain 2-5% usability in your car, for the long range driving. EV distance driving involves time, much more time. You can’t drive as fast as you want because it kills your range. You can’t charge quickly because the tech isn’t there yet. Access to charging currently restricts where you can charge so you have to take time to use the infrastructure that is available to you, perhaps in a not so convenient way.

      4. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        “Price parity at the low end will not happen, and people need to quit saying it will.”

        That’s about as foresighted as saying “640 kilobites ought to be enough for anyone.” It’s going to look awfully outdated in just a few years!

        All that’s necessary is for a BEV powertrain, including battery pack, to cost less to manufacture than a gasmobile powertrain plus all the Rube Goldberg kludges (exhaust system, muffler, catalytic converter, oil pump, fuel pump, etc. etc.) that a gasmobile needs but a BEV doesn’t.

        Considering the high cost of a gasmobile’s engine and transmission, and considering how many of those expensive kludges a gasmobile needs but a BEV doesn’t, that crossover point shouldn’t be many years in the future.

    2. Mint says:

      The median new car price is $34k, so I don’t see the need for a $20k pre-incentive price point for EVs to become a consumer demanded item.

      The Model 3 along with the Supercharger network has definitely crossed the barrier of being “consumer demanded”. The next step will be a 200-mile crossover for $30k, but it won’t be as big a step as the Model 3.

      Of course $20k would be nice, but the only way I see a 200-mile EV that cheap in 5 years is with a lifetime battery lease, e.g. a $2 e-gallon drives you 40 miles (including electricity via collaboration with a utility).

      1. Jay Cole says:

        Just as a random note, because we see the average price quoted a lot in reference to plug-in offering’s viability/price-equity with petrol vehicles.

        The average “light vehicle” transaction price in September was indeed $34,800, but that isn’t a “car” in actual fact.

        The average compact car was $20,300 in September, mid-size was $25,100, compact SUV/crossover was $28,600.

        This is why the 2018 Nissan LEAF (now with a more usable range for a little less cost) has the potential to be significant/sell well; with the federal credit’s involvement, and being classed a mid-size, its net cost ($22,490) is actually decently under the average ICE transaction price in America for its segment (and it will lease akin to a compact/subcompact).

        1. ziv says:

          Interesting points, Jay! They dovetail with the long felt opinion of a lot of us Chevy Volt fans that the Volt was either over priced or under sized. It could have sold a lot better if it had a lower MSRP, but it also could have done much better with a large portion of the car buying public if it was priced the same but had a roomier cabin and more rear seat leg room. I think the best of both worlds would have been a cheaper Chevy Volt on the same D2XX platform and the same MSRP for a Buick Electra using the Voltec drivetrain on a slightly larger platform (stretched D2XX?) with slightly more luxury features and cabin space.

          1. KenZ says:

            Agreed, but with a note that it would have also sold better if dealerships actually tried to sell it. The ones that did try, even ones out of CA, were successful. The others ignored it. I think the Volt, ESPECIALLY the new Volt, is a great car. Even at the current price.

        2. wavelet says:

          Jay,
          I’ve never seen the LEAF classified as a mid-size, always as a compact car.
          Granted, the distinctions are sometimes arbitrary (decently designed BEVs can occupy less footprint for the same internal space of an ICE), but still — a typical midsize would be the Chevy Malibu, which is longer (by almost 40cm), wider and taller.

          1. Jay Cole says:

            Lots of people like to use different figures/dimensions, but it fits the EPA definition (as defined by the passenger and cargo volume), and is officially classed as such.

            As we use EPA ratings for almost all plug-in metrics, we tend to try and keep the application of those definitions consistent,

            https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=38428#tab4

            1. ModernMarvelFan says:

              “but it fits the EPA definition (as defined by the passenger and cargo volume), and is officially classed as such.”

              Sorry to bring this up and I understand it is a problem with EPA but not inside EV. I still would like to raise the point that EPA classification is full of manure!

              Prius is midsize so are LEAF, but Kia Soul and Bolt and Fit are small wagons?

              How does that make any sense whatsoever?

              Why is LEAF considered as midsize “sedan” or hatchback while Bolt is a wagon?

            2. wavelet says:

              Thanks for the clarification!

            3. Stephen says:

              It’s puzzling to me that the Leaf is classified as midsize while the e-Golf is compact when they have almost identical passenger volume specs (92 vs. 91 cubic feet). The Leaf supposedly has more cargo area (24 vs. 17 cubic feet) but they look more or less the same to me. Regardless, either car has plenty of space for a family of up to four.

    3. Rhaman68 says:

      Hi. I suggest you speak with several Tesla Model S owners and ask them what is the average daily miles they log. Hint: it will be around 35 miles. Then go to a Toyota dealership and ask which is the cheapest car for sale. You should be told: Yaris. Ask for sales gadgets data and I bet you the Yaris is not. Conclusion: price alone is not enough and range/efficiency is not enough either. A range of 200 is excessive; a cheap price turns people off but a discounted price is welcomed!

  2. Mikael says:

    Too little range and too slow charging. It is better, but not game changing.

    1. Aaron says:

      Hmmm. For my purposes, it has too MUCH range and it charges faster than my EVSE can charge.

    2. Harold T says:

      Kind of a limited view. Why? For you perhaps? A “because” would be nice. Maybe you drive 50,000 miles a year up and down the Midwest with no infrastructure to support your EV needs?
      I’m at 40,000 miles driven and my car has never stranded me, and met 98% of my driving needs, with first gen EV at 76 miles range. Yes, it was a compromise. It was, on a few occasions an inconvenience because I had to plan ahead.
      The reason range is an issue is because charging is not fast enough and not readily available at work or on the road. Time will change that. Rate of charge is increasing, meaning less downtime. 95% of charging is at home, overnight, and that rate is not an issue. If you buy range, you will tie up cash in a depreciating asset that you only need 5% of the time. A cost that could be higher than renting another car. I could have bought a Bolt, but instead I pocketed half the cash and got a Soul EV with half the range. $199/mth vs $425/mth. Did you do the math?

      1. Ken Beihl says:

        I’m not sure where you live Harold but here in Southern California you can lease a Bolt for $185 a month.

        1. Mark.ca says:

          …with $3500 down. No thanks!

  3. Ian says:

    I’ve drivel my 2014 leaf over 66000 km with no range loss. Driven Canadian winters -20 to -45deg Celsius and it met 95% of my needs with a bit of range anxiety and fear of detours and freezing to death with my family. The range of the new leaf at 150miles/243km range will get most people through 99% of their driving with no range anxiety.
    With a 60kwh option in the future this is a hard sell for me as I would loose 15000$ trading my old leaf in. For a first time buyer the new leaf would be amazing, but I will have to wait for the bigger battery but by then a model 3 might be the best choice for me with 310 miles/502km range and just keep the old leaf for my kids.

  4. darth says:

    Disagree. This takes the LEAF from being an inexpensive EV that can handle 80% of typical trips to an inexpensive EV that can handle 99% of typical trips. I think that is a huge increase in usability.

    1. Djoni says:

      Most certainly!
      Even if we all wish bigger range and performance, it all come down to what we really need.
      I’ve done 146 000 kilometers in 5½ year with my 2012 MY Leaf.
      The battery lost 2 bars and stand at 78% remaining (Leafspy)
      Some twist and anxiety for sure, but I don’t care much, it was fun all the way and still is.
      The new Leaf would more than double my range and would fill 98% of my need.
      The 2% left would require a truck anyway.

      Yes, this Leaf is a game changer.

  5. Someone out there says:

    I am one that thinks EVs need to reach 200 miles as soon as possible but I also think Nissan has a point offering a different balance of price vs range. Some people do prefer cheaper before longer range.
    In the long run EVs must reach 300 miles at sub $30k before we see a massive uptake which I think will happen around 2022.

    1. How about this: at $30,000, this Leaf is about $5,000-$6,000 less, and about 70 miles less range than a Base Tesla Model 3; about $8,250 (MSRP) Less than a Base Bolt EV with CCS, and about 70-90 miles less range, as well.

      It is also about $14,000-$15,000 less and about 160 Miles Less Range, than a Long Range Tesla Model 3.

      If the 150 or so miles per charge covers anything iver 90% of a persons driving needs, this car at this price, could really make a great case for those potential buyers!

  6. Lou says:

    I am not going to quote a price and range necessity, but common sense suggests the lower the price and higher the range, the more EV’s will be sold. Evolutionary steps, already happening, although never seems fast enough. Nissan may have a point(especially in Europe and Japan where the longer trips we do here in the US may be less). I’d be quite happy with a 150 mile BEV, but even happier with a 200+ mile BEV. A lot of people, though, are going to find out that they would do quite well with “just 150 miles”. A full, and useable charging infrastructure(Chademo and CCS) are necessary. As pointed out above, with a 200 mile BEV, need to charge as often or as quickly is less. Most of us charge at home, and I could probably get by with the 110V household current, assuming no long trips. The 240V and Level III set ups are critical to mid range and longer trips, but many people just don’t do any of those.

  7. Carcus says:

    It might be a good value if you live in a cool/moderate environment.

    If you live in a hot environment…….something about a 10 foot pole?

  8. Ford Prefect says:

    What if GM does what Tesla does and sell a smaller battery version with range equivalent to the new Leaf (short range version) through limiting the number of kWh for a competitive price? If someone wants to access the larger battery, they just need to pay for it.

  9. John says:

    The instrument cluster is just too weird. And I want the speedometer digital.

  10. vdiv says:

    I would argue that the first Leaf was a market-changing car, along with the Volt in the US. It required taking a leap, looking forward, braving legacy naysayers. The new Leaf though a great evolution is not as ground-breaking.

    “We’ll see” said the Zen Master.

    1. The ‘New Leaf’ might not be as ‘Ground Breaking’ as the first Leaf, as EV’s go, but for people ‘Just Discovering’ EV’s today, it will have the same ‘Leap of Faith’ experience for new buyers.

  11. Jacked Beanstalk says:

    The problem with the Leaf remains the air cooled battery.

    It makes for a cheaper car but its range degradation could give EV’s a bad reputation and slow mass adoption.

  12. leafowner says:

    The Leaf will definitely bite into i3, eGolf, and other 100-125 mile EVs. I don’t think it will make much of a dent in Model 3 sales. I also bet that soon after the Leaf launch, the Bolt price drops to $33,985.

    1. William says:

      After the 2018 Leaf is out for about 6 months, GM will have to drop the Bolt price “$33.9k” as the 60 kWh Leaf gets ready for the 2019 early fall launch.

      Should be interesting to see the GM Bolt complete aggressively with the 2019 (60 kWh) Nissan Leaf for the number 2 spot (in the 60 kWh segment) in North America, behind the Tesla M3.

  13. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    “TIME’s Justin Worland admits upfront that he’s an ‘uninitiated electric-car operator’ that was surprised by the LEAF.”

    I assumed that was so, just from the title. Only someone completely unfamiliar with driving EVs could think the new Leaf is “market-changing”. (My inner Grammar Nazi insists on pointing out that should be “…who was surprised…”, rather than “…that was surprised…”.)

    I’ll say this for the new Leaf: It’s a much better looking car. EVs need to ditch the “dorkmobile” look if they’re going to go mainstream (with the notable exception of the Prius), and Nissan has finally managed to do that with the Leaf.

    But other than that, Nissan is only succeeding in capturing the lowest priced, bottom end of the highway-capable, street-legal PEV passenger car market. The Leaf’s lack of a battery thermal management system is on the verge of making the car obsolete, as the abysmal (and rapidly dropping over time) resale value shows.

    1. Mint says:

      The new Leaf is hardly the bottom end of the EV market.

      It’s the best EV under $34k MSRP.

      It’s got the most trunk space under $60k.

      It’s the only autosteering EV under $39k MSRP.

      It’s the only $30k EV that accelerates much better than a Prius (assuming the new motor is for real).

      Yes, the Model 3 destroys it. But if you’re already a bit uncomfortable at the amount a Leaf costs, then a Tesla is out of the question.

      Tell me, is the Ioniq or FFE or eGolf or Soul EV any better? They all have much slower acceleration, have substantially less range, and have nothing comparable to autopilot. The lack of a TMS isn’t as big a deal as you think, and will give Nissan room to cut the price further.

      1. Mint says:

        (i meant comparable to ProPilot)

  14. Get Real says:

    I want to Beleaf!

    1. EVBro says:

      I wish they’d bring that series back…

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