By on May 28, 2013

2013-nissan-leaf-01-628-1357743465

Elon Musk is turning his sights towards the Nissan Leaf. The Tesla Motors founder says his ultimate goal is for a sub-$40,000 car that’s better than Nissan’s EV, and he’s hoping to make that happen within 4 years.

The Detroit News quotes Musk during a Bloomberg interview

“With the Model S, you have a compelling car that’s too expensive for most people,” he said. “And you have the Leaf, which is cheap, but it’s not great. What the world really needs is a great, affordable electric car. I’m not going to let anything go, no matter what people offer, until I complete that mission.”

The long-rumored mainstream Tesla product is being targeted for a 200-mile range.

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55 Comments on “Tesla Wants To Build A Leaf Competitor...”


  • avatar

    Knowing Elon’s track record, it’s going to take 10 to 12 years.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Don’t know how you can say that, when Tesla’s already on their 2nd car since the company’s founding in 2003. Next year they’ll have their 3rd model.

    • 0 avatar

      If it’s as large as a DART inside, he’ll have a winner.

    • 0 avatar
      TecnamTwin

      Knowing Elon Musk’s record, their might be some delays which could push the Model E to 2017, just 3 years after the Model X which is coming the end of next year. That’s blisteringly fast for an industry that takes 4-5 years from concept to production.

      This article’s name is totally inaccurate. The Model E is supposed to compete with the BMW 3-series, Cadillac ATS, Audi A4, Mercedes C-class, Lexus IS, Acura TL, Volvo S60 etc. NOT the likes of the Nissan Leaf, Spark EV, Ford Focus EV, Honda Fit EV, etc.

      Here’s my idea about the price. BMW’s 328i starts at $37,100 and the 335xi tops out at $65,625. The M3 starts at $60,100 and tops out over $80,000.
      The Tesla Model E will be a sports sedan about 80% the size of the Model S with great looks, handling, technology, cargo space, Supercharging capability, and 200+ miles of range.

      Since the base price after the $7,500 tax credit is supposed to be $35,000, I expect it with options to average in the high $40s, topping out at $60,000 for a fully optioned one. The Performance version might start at $60,000 and top out around $80,000 like the M3.
      It could be available in 3 versions like the Model S:
      50kwh, 75kwh, and P75.

      Again, it’s not meant to compete with the Nissan Leaf. Tesla Motors is a premium car brand, just like BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Audi, or Jaguar. That’s why they will never produce a less than 200-mile range car with a lack of performance. Their 40kWh Model S was a flop because people want at least 200 miles of range as well as fast charging capability. GM is starting to realize this and is dropping hints that they are working on a 200 mile range EV. Expect it to hit roads in 2018 or 2019.

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    An econobox with a 200 mile range for $39,900 is going to go over like the proverbial lead balloon, as it’s still too expensive.

    If it were possible to deliver 200 mile range at a price attractive to the market, more like $20K, such a car would already exist. Batteries are not going to improve significantly in the next 5 to 10 years, no matter how much our pal Elon puffs his chest.

    • 0 avatar
      srh

      TFA says that Musk plans a car that is /better/ than the Leaf. There are plenty of cars that sell for nearly $40,000. If he hit that price point with an EV, and matched the quality of other $40,000 cars, I bet it would sell like hot-cakes.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Agreed on the technology; Tesla hasn’t advanced the performance of lithium ion batteries – they just use more of them. I don’t see him stuffing 200 miles of range into an econobox package.

      On the other hand, if he does produce a 200-mile EV, I don’t see it being under $40k. Maybe the 200-mile range battery ends up being optional.

      If he does magically produce a sub-$40k 200-mile EV, it will sell quite well in the EV niche.

      • 0 avatar
        E46M3_333

        Only if its other features compare favorably to ICE cars in that price range. It can’t be a stripper with fake leather, etc.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Help me here…

          Many of the people that drive EV’s are the attention seekers, trying to make the point that they’re doing what’s “in-style”

          isn’t being green and all that bs, related to the same animal rights bs.

          What I’m saying is, real leather doesn’t seem very fitting.

          • 0 avatar
            bryanska

            No, not necessarily. Some people drive EVs for their benefits, and not the attention. Further, there’s nothing bundling anti-leather with pro-EV.

            You’re being very, very broad with “all that BS”.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Honestly though, how many people have you seen go out and cross shop EV’s with ICE vehicles?

            For less money you can get a bigger vehicle.

            People that buy EV’s knew what they were going to go buy before they ever started researching the different kinds.

          • 0 avatar
            gslippy

            @Hummer: I think the EV demographic is changing rapidly, and isn’t quite the same as the stereotypical “Prius” crowd. However, you might be right about the incongruity of leather.

            I usually vote “R” and don’t hug trees, but I also don’t mind producing a little less pollution if affordably possible.

            As for cross-shopping, I actually cross-shopped a Dart with the Leaf; the Leaf was substantially better. Although I had researched the Leaf, I hadn’t made up my mind until I drove it. The lease terms were compelling, and the technology risk remains on Nissan unless I end up buying the thing.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        A $40k 3-series-sized fastback with 150kW motor and 50kWh usable battery would be a winner, especially since an affordable battery that size would need to be next-gen, and being so would also be in the 150kg range.. And it’d need at least 10kW AC and SuperCharger of course…

  • avatar
    LeafMeAlone

    If Tesla sells a sub-40k car, that would still be twice the price of the 2013 Leaf S, which costs $19500 after the tax rebate.

    Rather than being critical of Nissan, a company that has aimed to create an affordable electric car, Tesla could try to deliver a better car for the cost of what Nissan is delivering now. With a great dealer network and a affordable lease program, it won’t be possible for Tesla to be more than a seller of pollution tax credits, rather than a true car electric company for the masses.

    • 0 avatar
      Lynchenstein

      Up here in Canada, a Leaf is still $39K and I’m not aware of any large rebates.

      If Tesla could make a good-looking car (same price and specs as the Leaf) they’d instantly be more successful than Nissan w/ the Leaf.

      Why are electric cars so bloody ugly most of the time?

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @LeafMeAlone: I think you’re mixing the math. Tesla’s mythical car would also receive the tax rebates, so it wouldn’t be 2x.

    • 0 avatar
      Conslaw

      If Tesla can engineer a car that could be built for a selling price of $30-40k then Tesla could work out a cooperative agreement with Toyota. to help build it and put it in Toyota showrooms. I have no idea if it is possible or not, but I hope that I’m in a position when the time comes to consider buying one.

  • avatar
    DeeDub

    He’ll have to do better than that. I’d wager that 4 years from now Nissan will have a better Leaf than today’s Leaf.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I think I was asleep when $40k became a reasonable price for a normal car.
    I make a pretty good living but I don’t think I could stomach $700+ payments for 5 years for, essentially, a throw-away car.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “a throw-away car.”

      The nature of an electric car – one main moving engine part, single speed transmission, etc. would tend to make it far more durable and reliable than an ICE car. So, why are you saying “throw-away”.

      • 0 avatar
        mike1dog

        The reason being, the battery pack would cost so much, probably twenty grand, that it would not make sense to fix.

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          “The researchers behind the McKinsey study developed a “should-cost” model which suggests that the price of a lithium-ion battery pack could drop from today’s cost of about $500 to $600 per kilowatt hour to about $200 by 2020 and $160 by 2025.”

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Yes, but “could” is much different than “will”. And 2025 isn’t tomorrow.

            “Throw-away” might not be the right term, but buying a Tesla EV is a big financial risk for a lot of people.

            Will the company last for the long term? Will the EV infrastructure continue to grow? Will battery pack replacement costs fall? What kind of degradation will the battery suffer in the long-term? What will the next generation (if any) of EVs or hybrids look like?

            I don’t have $40K to blow on an EV experiment from a very young company anymore than I would have had the cash or willingness for a cellphone in 1993, a personal computer in 1988, or any car in 1905.

            For the wealthy that are looking to be early adopters, more power to them.

            I guess there is always leasing if that’s your thing…

        • 0 avatar
          LeafMeAlone

          Are you assuming that all of the cells in the battery pack must be replaced at the same time? My understanding was that some cells could be replaced, and others moved to a new location in the pack. This could reduce the cost of battery maintenance and delay the need for a total replacement by years. If the above is the case, then paying say, $2000 per year in battery maintenance after 8-10 years of paying nothing, and getting another 8-10 years out of the vehicle, may be reasonable. Assuming the worst, that the entire battery would need replacement after 8 years (the length of the warranty), and the cost would be $15k (not sure where that number comes from); then the car would be good for another 8-10 years. So, driving a car 16-20 years does not sound disposable. All of this also assumes that gas will remain under $5.00 per gallon for the next 20 years – which I think is doubtful.

      • 0 avatar
        Lynchenstein

        Except for those pesky batteries.

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        I actually meant it in the sense that the majority of people who buy a $40k car (not necessarily this car) tend to keep it for 5-7 years and move on to something else. Personally, if I were to spend $40k on a car I would expect it to be something special that I would keep for the long run and develop an affection for.
        The best example I can come up with for a throw-away car would be a SMART car. Many people bought them, didn’t like them, and then took a huge loss getting rid of them within a few years or less.
        And when I think of $40k cars I think Avalon, Acrua TL, and some “luxury” CUVs. Not something that in a few years anyone will particularly covet.

        The battery issue is a completely different issue. I tend to think you’d have a better chance of getting a reasonable life out of a Tesla than something from Toyota, Ford, or GM – despite what Top Gear says.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          I personally find new and interesting technology to be “something special”.

          Also, I really enjoyed driving the Leaf. It’s super-smooth, and it has a lot of low-ens torque (though it peters out at highway speeds). It’s pretty much perfect for running a stopsign-gauntlet on the way to work. I also appreciated the sci-fi themed interior.

          I like it a lot. I have to keep looking at my budget to keep myself from marching down to the Nissan dealer and getting myself one.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    A few more years of battery development, a new compact body, some raiding of other manufacturers’ suppliers’ parts bins, makes me more likely to bet on them than against them…

    What if they miss the numbers by 10%? 180-mile range, $44,000, 5-seater with OK cargo capacity. As for the cars being “disposable”, I figure that the worst case is you get 7 years of known good service and roll a die every year after that. If the snake eye comes up you’ll have to pay $15,000 for a new, upgraded battery pack. If it doesn’t, you’ll enjoy much lower M&R costs than a similar gasoline car.

  • avatar
    redav

    I don’t know about a Leaf competitor, but I’d love a BMW 3 series competitor for under $40k.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      That’s exactly what Musk is talking about. No, it won’t be as as quick as a 3 (or maybe it will), but that’s irrelevant. Most people buy BMWs because they’re BMWs, they don’t care about tracking them or pushing them to their limits. It’s all about the brand.

      The S has gone a long way towards building Tesla’s brand, a well-executed sub-$40k Tesla may do very well.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    Wow, that’s a pretty tough way to learn about economies of scale.

    I’d shoot for a 5-series competitor first, before trying to go mass market. There’s less price sensitivity at the $50-60k level.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    I saw a brand new Ford Focus EV hatchback the other day in a train station parking garage. It’s not cheap, if you buy one — $39,995 with destination. The Ford website says they’ll lease you one for $284/mo with $929 down for a 36-month 10.5K mile/year lease. Probably makes good sense as a station car.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    If Tesla produced a sub-40k competitor to the Bimmer 3-series, I think they’d have a pretty big winner on their hands. It wouldn’t be an entry-level car, but it would do very well in that segment, just as the Model S has been doing very well in the 60-100k segment.

    Beyond that, the criticism for expensive EVs that I read here can just as easily get slung at any gas car. If all everyone cared about in cars was getting from Point A to Point B, nearly every car in the world would be an entry-level car. Regardless of the method of propulsion, customers also care about:

    * Design
    * Performance
    * Luxury
    * Comfort
    * Reliability

    Entry-level cars don’t always have all these, and some of us will pay more to get them.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    This guy Elon Musk needs to STFU. Seems like he spends more time with the press than he does running his company.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Methinks he’s done a whole lot more than you have ever done, or ever will do, or ever would be capable of doing.

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      Your statement would have value if both Tesla and SpaceX were failing and / or about to go under but they are not. Both are healthy, well run companies doing remarkable business.

  • avatar
    ydnas7

    Model S is more Jag than BMW….

    If the Model S is somewhere between a 5 and a 7 series BMW
    then the Tesla Gen III could be somewhere between a 1 and 3 series BMW

    of course the Tesla would have a performance model out first that would outperform the M3 in acceleration for all but the most skilled drivers.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    Maybe I missed it but has anyone posted the change in their electric bills on a monthly basis with a full electric car…
    Electricity is not free…why is no one reporting on this?????

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      No, electricity is not free. But it’s cheaper than gasoline. there’s plenty of data out there, do some googling

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Yup, just take the WH/Mile on the car’s spec sheet, multipy by the number of.miles you drive, multiply by your effective electric rate, and divide by 1000.

        The rate is typically about 1/4 the the cost of running a has car over the same distance. And you have to stop and recharge if your use-case doesn’t include a lot of overnight parking at home (where you have an outlet). And the car costs more.

        But it’s still a winner in some use cases, and/or for a particular kind of technology enthusiast. I’m strongly in the second category, and close enough to the first.

    • 0 avatar
      LeafMeAlone

      The cost of electricity depends on the cost of electricity per kWh and how the car is driven. Where I live, the cost per kWh is low, .10 in summer, .07 in winter. I generally average better than 4 miles per kWh in summer, and around 3 miles per kWh in winter. So, in summer, the cost to drive 1000 miles is around $25. (in fact, last summer I did better, and spent $18 on electricity in 1000 miles). In winter, the cost would be $23. So, I would say, based on my own experience, in my locale, the cost to drive 12k would be less than $300 in electricity. For a gasoline car, getting 30 miles per gallon average at $3.50 per gallon, the cost would be $1400. But the gas car also requires tune-ups and oil changes. Not so the Leaf.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Nissan does have a bit of a head start on the “mass market” compact electric car. In four years time they most likely will have a newer model out that will be better, even substantially better. Elon Musk has an uncanny ability to produce results though.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    I don’t think making a Leaf with a 200-mile range is going to be any big breakthrough – the problem with EVs is not range, it’s charge time.

    As long as EVs are city cars – commuter cars, whatever you call them, people will just bring them home and plug them in every day – the 3400-lb., 80-mile Leaf range, with an 8-hour charge time at 230V/40A is just fine with them. Having a 3650-lb. Leaf with a 200-mile range and a 20-hour charge time at 230V/40A is not going to move the car to a different use category – it’s not going to make it more than a city car. I suspect that even giving it fast-charge capability so it has 200-mile range with a 2-hour charge time would not, either.

    As long as your automotive use profile has you only charging at night, at home, the car’s refueling characteristics are an advantage over ICE cars. As soon as your use profile starts to include charging away from home, while-u-wait, the refueling characteristics become a very, very large liability compared to ICE cars.

    The only reason the Tesla S is somewhat a success as a road car due to the Supercharger network (in that tiny part of the country the network exists) is that there are few enough of the cars out there that they can show up at the Supercharger, counting on spending 1.5 – 2 hours charging, and are able to hook up right away and go grab a bite – so it matches their expectations. As soon as they show up and find all the charger bays taken, so that now they’re looking at spending an extra hour or two, that all goes out the window.

    I think the future growth of EVs, barring any moonshot breakthrough, is in producing the best 100-mile-range city/commuter/second car you can make. Keep it VW Golf-sized, get the weight and size of the powertrain as small as you can (compared with an EV powertrain that now weighs 1.5-2 times as much as in an ICE car) congruent with that 100-mile range, and you’re golden.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      EVs won’t be all things to all people any time soon.

      So what? Nor is any other car!

      It’s one more choice than we used to have. I already own more than one vehicle, so the limits of the leaf wouldn’t limit my lifestyle as a whole.

    • 0 avatar
      LeafMeAlone

      Charging times are half the equation between an EV being a commuter car and a versatile car. The other half is range.

      I would be willing to sacrifice 30 minutes to charge the car if it had a 300 mile range. If someone could pull this off, the EV would be acceptable (for me) as both a commuter car and a car for road trips, providing one didn’t venture too far from the beaten path.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    The high-power-charging network (I don’t like the term “Supercharger” but if Tesla wants me to use it badly enough I will) will continue to expand, especially if they keep selling progressively more cars.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Many have commented on the cost of repairing/replacing the battery. I don’t know about the service record of Lithium-ion batteries such as the Leaf uses. But in the case of the Prius and Escape Hybrid the NiMH batteries are lasting over 8 years without repair, and are retaining something like 85% of original capacity after 300,000 miles.* (Many are used for taxis in North America.) So basically the battery is good for the life of the car. So few batteries are needing replacement that they are available from wrecks for about $1000. And has been said, individual cells can be replaced. Basically, it’s a myth/non-issue.

    Electrics will also benefit financially from low to minimal upkeep costs for the drivetrain and brakes. As for purchase price, some will pay lots more than “makes sense” because they believe in the external benefits of electric cars, just as many others pay thousands extra for cars that meet their need to speed up suddenly, or have the latest gizmos, or are BIG, etc.

    *How is this done? Most of us have experience with household rechargable batteries lasting only a limited time. Batteries used in cars are treated with kid gloves, being heated and cooled to stay in their most preferred temperature range, and never going below something like a 40% discharge level or above a 65% charge level. This is the reason behind their extraordinary longevity.


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