By on November 6, 2012

Nissan’s chief operating officer Toshiyuki Shiga said he was “disappointed and frustrated” by the lackluster sales of electric vehicles in general and the Leaf in particular. Speaking at the mid-term results press conference at the Nissan HQ in Yokohama, his emotional appeal to recognize Nissan’s pioneering efforts in the field of zero emissions had undertones of an eulogy on the electric vehicle:

“Somewhere in the history of mankind, people will have to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and Nissan is assuming the risk to do it now. We were the first volume maker deploy EVs globally. Please don’t forget that we have this passion and a sense of mission.”

Not giving up on EVs, Shiga personally heads a task force to accelerate the sales of EVs. So far, Shiga did not have more to report than mining the data harvested from the connected Leafs, and giving the data to companies that will install quick chargers.

Next month, it will be two years that Nissan launched the Leaf pure EV. According to Shiga, it saw global sales of 42,700 units since introduction, 19,000 of them in Japan.

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34 Comments on “Slow EV Sales Disappoint And Frustrate Nissan COO...”

  • avatar

    One of those Leafs is mine.

    However, I’m one of the few that doesn’t believe oil will ever disappear, for a variety of reasons. This is a bit of a separate discussion, and has been covered here before.

    And, there are four primary reasons EVs don’t sell:
    1. Vehicle price is too high. They shouldn’t need subsidies.
    2. EV range is too low. Adding capacity like the Tesla doesn’t solve the charging problem.
    3. Chargers are too few due to limited acceptance, and too slow due to battery technology limitations.
    4. Fuel is cheap and reliable, and predictable for range. And despite what they say, most people act like oil will never go away.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Oil itself will never disappear, but oil at price X, where X is more affordable for transportation, fertilizing, manufacturing, etc. than other energy sources, is another matter.

      • 0 avatar

        bumpy ii has it exactly right. We fuel our cars with oil now because it is cheaper than the alternatives. When that is no longer the case we will switch to the next cheapest. The free market will make us do that without subsidies. I don’t know if that will be in 10, 100, or 1000 years, but it will happen.

        And global warming, if it exists, is one of the costs that will be considered in the equation.

      • 0 avatar

        “And global warming, if it exists, is one of the costs that will be considered in the equation.”

        If? You wish. Heck, I wish.

        The costs should be considered and they should be borne by those that incur the costs. As things stand, the costs are not currently considered and the costs will be borne by future generations. That doesn’t strike me as just.

    • 0 avatar

      How is this for an answer to the question of the Leaf’s slow sales? The competition has better products. The Volt and Prius give the customer assurance they can get to where they want to go. The Leaf can’t. With the Leaf, when you are out of juice, you are out of luck. The Volt and Prius both have gas engines in case there is not enough juice in the batteries. With the Leaf, I think of Clint Eastwood on the chances of completing the trip. Well punk, do you feel lucky? Do you?

      • 0 avatar

        The Volt and Prius are ‘better products’ for some.

        I average 27 miles daily, and pay less than $0.03/mile for electrons to feed the Leaf. There is no ICE to worry about; it’s a much simpler vehicle.

        I have other gas-burning cars. If I didn’t, the Prius would be the better product, combining lower price and low operating cost.

        Range anxiety with the Leaf only happens if you push it, which you shouldn’t do. I did once, and it wasn’t fun.

      • 0 avatar

        With the Leaf, I am also worried about range over time. I drive about 45 miles a day. I like to own cars for a minimum of 8 years. I don’t know how that battery would be in years 8, 9, or 10. Texas is hot. Not as hot as Arizona, but still hot.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Gslip, what about having the new durable, flexible solar panel imbedded on top of the Leaf? Would it be enough to provide additional voltage if say, you were to drive it to work and eight hours later, went home?

      • 0 avatar

        Not sure what panel you mean.

        My Leaf SL has the little OEM panel on the rear wing, but it’s only wired into the accessory circuit. It only charges the accessory battery, which reduces load on the BIG battery.

        As an engineer geek, I’ve briefly looked at what solar panels can do, and it isn’t much. People joke about carrying around a generator to power the Leaf indirectly with gasoline, etc., but you’d need quite a generator.

        Consider that the “trickle” charger (Level 1) shipped with the car delivers 1440 Watts. For daily use that would take over 5 hours to fill up, given my needs. A solar panel which delivers that kind of power is over $5k and is about 15 square feet in size – hardly economical or portable.

        So it seems the economies of scale provided by the US electrical grid infrastructure are really the most sensible thing to use. But if EVs really gained market share, there’d be grid overload. For my situation, I’m expecting to see a 20% increase in power consumption at home. Doing this across the country is untenable at this point.

      • 0 avatar

        your solar panel has to be as big as a big house if u wanna to have enuf juice to quick charge your leaf.

  • avatar

    Nissan should have invested more heavily in hybrid technologies a decade ago. Hybrids can do an interstate drive with no problems.

    I’ve nothing against electric vehicles, but please don’t use tax dollars to subsidize their purchase. If someone wants one, he or she needs to pay for it on their own dime.

    • 0 avatar

      Hybrids really aren’t the sales magnet that you think. They’re not really big outside of US or Japan, and also, of the existing sales, the lions share go to Toyota, and more specifically, the Prius. Hybrids are cool, but they’re not as relevant as people make them out to be. People only buy them of theres no cost penalty (Lincoln) or if they make a values statement (Prius).

      Look at the math: for a huge number of vehicles, the hybrid option will only save money after like 7 – 9 years of ownership.

      I think that Nissan has hit the right course by embracing ways to get more MPG out of conventional engines. For the present time, this is what the market wants and needs. I’ll be interested to see how the new Altima and Sentra do…

  • avatar

    The Leaf is a good idea but is about as ugly as it can be. What the heck were they thinking? If it didn’t look like it was designed by a committee, it would sell..if it had any range..and it was cheaper.

  • avatar

    Nissan was not the first volume EV maker. Electric golf carts have been around for many decades. I know it sounds ridiculous to compare the Leaf and a golf cart. But there’s a reason that they are limited to confined areas. The reality is that battery technology isn’t there yet. Fossil fuel is the only reliable method today that’s capable of providing the power we need on a wide scale. That may change in ten years or sooner, but battery power isn’t the solution today.

  • avatar

    Assuming they haven’t done this already, Nissan needs to buy a 85-kWh Model S, dissect it, and rethink future product accordingly. The goal posts have moved a long way since the Leaf was introduced.

    • 0 avatar

      “The goal posts have moved a long way since the Leaf was introduced.”

      Not really. Tesla just installed more battery to get more range. Nissan could easily do this, but it would be called the “Branch” or something, and would be a larger vehicle. The technology hasn’t advanced.

      And now Tesla – as much as I admire the Model S – is faced with developing a “Supercharger” in order to charge it in a decent time, because they have such a big tank to fill.

      • 0 avatar

        The goal posts in terms of consumer experience and expectations have certainly moved a long way; the Leaf seems like yesterday’s technology next to a Model S, even if it mostly really isn’t.

      • 0 avatar

        I see your point. Now that Tesla has shown you can pack range into an EV that is roughly equal to a gasoline car, the bar has been raised. This is true.

        I’m just saying that filling that big battery is a special challenge that no technology has addressed yet, and this will disappoint potential customers.

  • avatar

    Well, now that’s two major manufacturers tacitly giving up on EVs.
    Seems like battery technology is the gravity well that EVs and many other mobile technologies just can’t escape.

  • avatar

    Wonder how the Mitsu i-MiEV is doing.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    As energy storage devices, batteries suck, compared to just about any fuel. That’s the problem. CNG is a much more promising technology: if the concern is carbon emissions, it’s not quite as good as hydro or nuclear electricity (wind, solar? GMAFB!) but at least good as, if not better than electricity generated by burning fuel, especially coal.

    Range is better and “recharging” is much simpler and faster.

    • 0 avatar

      gslippy and Dc Bruce…

      We have all discussed the problems with EV’s repeatedly on TTAC. I had listed 16 of them before, and don’t need to review all that now. I guess the bottom line is that gasoline is available and cheap; diesel fuel is similar and has a biofuel little brother waiting in the wings; and compressed natural gas (CNG) is gaining in use as a viable alternative. All use tried and true technologies in ICE’s, which don’t demand a paradigm shift for consumers.

      If you still worry about man-made global warming, there is also the upcoming Audi method: a great way to store hydrogen is make it into CNG by harvesting CO2 for that reaction from the atmosphere. So, we have H2 by electrolysis and actually REMOVE CO2 from the atmosphere while running our vehicles. How good does it get?


    • 0 avatar

      Yes, but the lack of a refueling infrastructure means that currently, EVs and CNG-powered vehicles have a lot in common in terms of range anxiety.

      In the entire greater Seattle area, there are only SIX CNG refueling stations. The only other stations (according to in the entire PNW are in southern OR and southwestern ID. There are many more locations for charging an EV than there are to refuel a CNG car.

      This means that if I want to take my CNG-powered car on a road trip in the PNW more than 100-125 miles one-way (assuming total range of about 300 miles which seems typical for say a Civic CNG), I can’t do it.

      There was a Civic CNG for sale recently that I looked at. After looking at the filling station map, I quickly realized that it would have only been an around-the-town car, just like an EV.

      • 0 avatar


        Yup. If you take a look at the CNG distribution map in your link (thanks for that, by the way), you can see concentrations of CNG stations in CA, Upper MidWest, NE, and TX. No doubt these will expand rapidly with CNG acceptance. Chevy, for example, is now making a CNG truck available for the general public, as opposed to fleet-use only. But in any case, CNG is an easily doable, viable, up-and-coming fuel, while cheap gasoline and diesel may be the mainstay for years to come.

        So, how does an EV compete with that? Unless you use it for local commuting and shopping trips in moderate climates, it can’t.


    • 0 avatar

      “…it’s not quite as good as hydro or nuclear electricity (wind, solar? GMAFB!) but at least good as, if not better than electricity generated by burning fuel, especially coal.”

      DC buddy, gotta pull yer head out as its stuck in the 19th Century. Coal fired plants are notoriously inefficient. Out here in Iowa, more than 30% of the energy is coming from wind turbines out on the windy plains. Seems to run my electronic gear just fine.

  • avatar

    I saw my first Leaf today while voting at the local school. It almost ran me over since I could not hear it. Interesting vehicle choice since I live in a rural community. I spoke to the owner and he said his other car was a Suburban.

    I could live with one of these as long as did not need to travel more than 1/2 its range from home.

  • avatar

    No need to worry for Nissan. Should E-cars ever become marketable in the near future they have already done their homework. The losses can be shifted to the “conservative” customer.

  • avatar

    I might be more interested if they change the battery warranty to cover capacity loss over time. As it is, virtually all of this type of risk is on the consumer.

    I have an incomplete table posted here:

    • 0 avatar

      The Leaf information posted at that site is incorrect. The relevant statement in my Nissan literature says this:

      “Gradual loss of battery capacity. Like all lithium ion batteries, the 2012 Nissan Leaf will experience a reduction in the amount of electricity or charge it can hold over time, resulting in a reduction of the vehicle’s range. This is normal and expected. The rate of reduction cannot be assured, however, the battery is expected to maintain approximately 80% of its initial capacity after 5 years of normal operation and recommended care, but this is not guaranteed. This number may be higher or lower depending upon usage and care. Factors that will affect and may hasten the rate of capacity loss include, but are not limited to: exposure to very high temperatures for extended periods of time, driving habits, vehicle usage, and charging habits (Quick Charging the vehicle more than once per day).”

      I had to sign a document containing this and many other statements, to the effect that I understood and agreed to them as part of the Terms of Sale.

      • 0 avatar

        Either you did not read or missed the point of my web page. The point of my web page is that there is no specific guarantee regarding capacity loss for most of these vehicles. Estimates and loose wording subject to interpretation and change may be enough to satisfy you, but the point that I was making with my post here is that it does not satisfy me. You may or may not recall that initially Nissan was “estimating” 80% at 10 years. Now it is “approximately 80%” at 5 years. Since the performance is not guaranteed, Nissan may change it again to 70% at 3 years or anything that they want. Only one of of the vehicles for which I have found information has a guarantee in writing.

  • avatar

    I know this is subjective, but I find the Leaf one of the ugliest car I have ever seen.

    The curves on the side have no symmetry, uniformity or orderliness. It is shaped like a malformed bumpy potato.

    Otherwise this type of car excites me. I also think the price needs to be a bit lower however I would have no problem paying what they pay in California for it if it was less ugly.

    • 0 avatar

      Well you’re right. It is a very ugly vehicle (in more ways than one) but it was initially billed to do great things for CA if not the nation as a whole. And it fell far short of its goal. Infrastructure is but one of the many issues as of 1/2014. But it certainly is not the main issue. Range anxiety (and diminishing commuter distances over time) is a major issue for this vehicle and if they fail to significantly bump up the range as promised soon then this leaf will simply wilt from the very start. Reminds me somewhat of GM’s first attempt at EV1’s 1996-99 which also failed miserably for many of the same reasons. One can argue that we have to keep trying. However as a current 2013 leaf owner seven months into my lease and over 20% loss of range I think its time to nail this coffin completely shut on the leaf. I can see the writing on the wall as well as the many attorneys lining up class action litigation already.

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