By on July 6, 2016

2016_nissan_leaf_07

The Leaf is nowhere to be seen — unless you’re staring at a Nissan dealer lot — and American buyers are barely budging their electric vehicle take up rate. Nissan, it seems, needs another incentive to sweeten its EV pot.

The solution? More free electricity. It’s not a new idea (actually, it’s an expanded version of two-year-old promotion), but the automaker probably figured, why the hell not?

Nissan’s recently announced growth of its “No Charge to Charge” program sees free public charging for Leaf owners expanded to 11 more U.S. cities. The hope is that free electrons will balance out some of the aging Leaf’s drawbacks and reverse a steep sales slide.

In total, 38 U.S. cities carry the promotion, which attaches two free years of public charging to the purchase or lease of a Leaf. A host of Rust Belt cities, including Detroit, Cleveland/Akron and Pittsburgh, join the list, along with Las Vegas, Reno and some other midsize hubs. Yes, that means you, Providence. (Can every point inside Rhode Island be reached on a single charge?)

Unchanged except for the recent option of a larger 107-mile battery, the Leaf is eating it in the marketplace. But that’s a problem facing all EVs and hybrids. With the exception of pricey Teslas, existing EVs still have limited range, and cheaper gas makes the purchase of a thirstier internal combustion car seem like good value.

After a dismal slump in the spring, Leaf sales ticked upward in June, but they’re still half of what they were a year ago.

The next-generation Leaf is expected to bow in 2018 and boast at least 200 miles of range, but the low cost, reasonable-range field will be a crowded one. For now, Nissan is stuck hocking a model that first went on sale in late 2010. Because it’s been on the market for so long, Nissan can at least brag that the Leaf is the world’s best-selling all-electric vehicle, but that doesn’t move product off the lot.

[Image: Nissan]

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32 Comments on “Nissan Really Hopes Free Juice Will Be the Leaf Blower It Needs to Clear the Lot...”


  • avatar
    Dr. Doctor

    Even if you wanted to buy a Nissan Leaf, the best argument against a new Leaf is a used one.

    Why would I shell out the money and wait for the state and federal tax credits when I can just get an off-lease one for around ten grand? The battery is still under warranty, and if the depreciation on the vehicle is that bad that it goes from being a $30k vehicle to a $9k vehicle in the course of 1-2 years then you’d be throwing your money away buying one new.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      In my view, a low buck used Leaf looks like the perfect student commuter car.
      Nissan should be installing the chargers at high schools and colleges. They might even inspire the sale of a few new ones.

      • 0 avatar
        eggsalad

        Smart thinking. Give one to your kid and you can be sure he/she won’t be hauling his/her friends all over town and back. It’s better than a curfew!

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          Why wouldn’t they be able to haul their friends around town? I put about 150 miles on a Leaf on with the heat pump set on 68 degrees on Monday without a problem. You can do 65 in hilly terrain and still get in the 4 miles per kWh range.

          • 0 avatar
            eggsalad

            I’m sure you did. How much will your range go down when you add the weight of a carload of teenagers?

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Doctor

        It’s what I ended up doing when my old truck gave out. The university I go to installed EV chargers and offers heavily discounted parking decals for students and faculty with EVs.

        Sure, charging is rolled into cost of tuition. But considering that home is only a 40 mile drive away and how often I actually use the car, not having to buy fuel really helps.

    • 0 avatar
      eggsalad

      Agree 100%. I was just on Nissan’s website and learned that you can get a 3-year lease for about $10k total.

      Why not just buy a $10,000 used one? You can maybe drive it 4+ years and even if it depreciates to $0, you’re still ahead of the game.

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        Obviously the value of this vehicle decreases as the battery pack ages toward replacement.
        But long term there may be some cheapo alternate manufacturer battery packs for these that make a retrofit pretty economical.
        I assume the balance of the vehicle is robust enough to last the typical 15 yrs or so.

      • 0 avatar
        revjasper

        And that’s the reason why I chose the Spark EV over the Leaf. Never mind the looks, the extra performance and a three year cost of about $3500 to lease a new one was a winner. Plus a free 240V charger from Bosch through the rebate program.

        However, with the arrival of 200 mile range cars in the next year, I won’t be buying the car after the lease is up. Instead of the $11K purcase option I’ll probably end up getting one after it goes through the auction cycle for a substantial discount.

  • avatar

    Such an ugly, unattractive vehicle.

    Looks like something from a low budget sci-if movie.

    • 0 avatar
      bricoler1946

      I have to agree,maybe if Nissan made their car(s)good to look at for achange they might sell.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        +1 My wife is about experience an increased commute (and traffic) due to an office relocation thus switching to an EV makes sense for her. She loves the ideal of going green and never having to refuel. Plus the Leaf is a hatchback which is her perfected configuration. So she was very interested – then she saw one… and now its off the list.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          “then she saw one… and now its off the list.”

          Yep, poor little thing (emphasis on little) looks an amphibian birth defect, has zilch ground clearance and asks wintry-state people to risk battery drop during long subzero days in parking lots. Nuh-uh.

          But I’d sure love a silent vehicle that had nothing to pee on the garage floor and that meant I’d only be stopping at gas stations for chew.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      It’s all about aerodynamics. It’s not meant to be pretty. It needs to slice through the air as efficiently as possible. You can get 4 to 5 miles per kWh at highway speeds without much of a problem. I ran it at 70 in “B” mode with 3 passengers and the heat pump on and still managed maybe 3.6 miles per kWh. The aerodynamics are far more important than looks.

      The reason people aren’t buying them is that they know 200 mile cars are a few months away. I love my Leaf, but I tell people to wait for 200+ mile range cars.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      That’s the problem. It isn’t sleek or sexy like a Tesla, and it’s also OLD. Who wants a frumpy EV design that hasn’t changed in six years, and it’s clear Nissan doesn’t care enough to update the design to make it more desirable?

      Say what you will about the VOLT, at least they did a full-bore redesign inside and out, resulting in an immediate sales increase.

      Free juice does not fix the underlying problem: No one is excited about the Leaf anymore.

  • avatar
    Macca

    Shouldn’t the first line read “The *current*-generation Leaf is nowhere to be seen…” – seeing as the 2nd-gen Leaf doesn’t arrive until 2018? Next-gens aren’t on dealer lots either, it would seem.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      There is some debate as to whether the current model isn’t actually a second generation vehicle. Different battery formula (at least in my car, no noticeable capacity loss at 32k miles), the addition of “B” mode aggressive regeneration, the heat pump, and lots of other little additions as well like a light in the charging compartment and the ability to lock the plug into the charge port to prevent theft. I think there are some aerodynamic tweaks in the bodywork as well. The big changes are the battery, B mode, and the heat pump.

  • avatar
    baggins

    There is a dealership near me in SF Bay area in Calif that has 15 Leafs lined up, looking like a little army of frogs ready to march.

    Tough sell.

  • avatar
    LIKE TTAC.COM ON FACEBOOK

    What isn’t clear is if the free charging is at any charging station, or only at the Nissan dealer’s lot. Hopefully the former; if it’s the latter, that’s not a very useful offer.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      From what I can gather on EV and Leaf forums, it’s mostly an empty gesture. Nissan dealerships fall into two categories when it comes to EV charging:

      1. A few put their chargers out in a public, easily accessible place where not only Leaf owners, but EV owners of any sort have free, 24/7 availability. Chevrolet has been like this from the day the first Volts began arriving.

      2. OTOH, most Nissan dealerships have put their chargers in out of the way, hard to get at places, which are then gated, turned-off, or otherwise blocked so they can’t be used by anyone after normal business hours. Further, they make it quite clear that their chargers are not only solely for Leaf owners, they’re only to be used by Leafs that were purchased at that specific dealership. There are rumors that a few Nissan dealerships actually had non-Leaf EVs using their charger arrested for theft of electricity.

      I suspect this announcement is in direct response to Nissan corporate (finally) discovering that, not only all Chevrolet dealerships have always allowed free access to their chargers for everyone (not just Volts/Bolts), a lot of them have invested heavily in upgrading to charging stations that have modern, multiple, covered stalls.

      Clearly, Chevrolet has been ‘all-in’ for EV charging from the beginning. Nissan? Not so much.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        The Nissan dealer nearest to me has its chargers in publicly accessible places, but has such high Leaf volume that they are almost never available. I don’t think I’ve ever driven by and not seen them full of Leafs, often the dealership’s Leafs.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    It’s simple.

    The Leaf needs a 200-mile battery pack in order to compete with the Chevy Bolt and the Tesla Model 3.

    More astute readers may point out that neither of those cars are on the market uet. But EV buyers tend to be well informed and forward thinking, so waiting a few months (for the Bolt) or 2 years (for the Model 3) isn’t a big deal.

    Seriously, I like the Leaf and can afford one. But I have a Model 3 reservation in my name, and so I’m going to delay gratification for a much more capable and compelling vehicle.

    The Leaf is a great car. But the coming generation of EVs are literally twice as good (roughly double the range), and that’s worth waiting for. I wouldn’t be surprised if thousands of other EV buyers are making the same decision.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Dare we hope for a Moore’s Law here?

      I want a nice, big, tall one that laughs at winter!

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        No Moore’s law here, but we get thw engineering equivalent if compounding interest instead.

        EV battery capacity per dollar is supposed improve at 10%-15% per year. Five years (since the release of the 2011 Leaf) is about right to double the capacity at the 15% rate. So, we should see capacity increases or cost decreases with every automotive design cycle for a while.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          Man, that doubling of capacity per dollar over 5 years (15% compounding improvement) exactly what we’ve been seeing.

          The Bolt is doubling the range of Chevrolet’s EV offering for about the sane price as a Leaf.

          Tesla will be cutting the cost of their volume model in half as they transition from the Model S to the Modem 3.

          And Nissan is doing neither, and customers arent buying the Leaf anymore.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Thanks.

            So, for the size, unavoidable weight and cold weather duty I want I should probably check the tech after I die.

            Maybe they’ll have EV hearses by then!

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            My wife’s commute JUST fits within the 107 mile range of the existing leaf. Cut out 20% for weather, and another 20% for battery degradation, etc — and 200 miles really is the magic number for her.

            She’s sold on the whole package of th Model 3. I reserved it for me because I wanted it, but she’s basically appropriated my reservation because she needs it.

            I’ll probably get a Model Y for my kid-schlepping and shorter commute, once the Model 3 is paid off.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    You can’t throw a rock without hitting one here in Oahu, Hawaii. Free juice would be icing on the cake.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Seems to me that current-gen EVs are lot poison because any informed EV buyer is waiting for the 200-mile Chevy Bolt (or, if they’re optimistic about Tesla’s ability to meet a delivery schedule, the Tesla Model 3).

    One California BMW dealer was leasing i3 REX models for $299 a month with zero down. This is a 50 thousand dollar car we’re talking about. But that dealer is the enlightened exception; my local dealer’s asking more like double that. Chevy has hypothetically been blowing out Spark EVs with $139 a month leases for months–but actual Chevy dealers border on hostile when asked to honor the deal or even tell you when one will be in stock. An off-lease used Toyota RAV4 EV, with its ballsy mutant-Tesla drivetrain and semi-decent range, almost appeals to me, but Toyota dealers refuse to offer them “certified” due to pricey component failures and spotty parts availability, and they’re priced too high for a buyer to say wotthehell and take on that risk. (Dealers, feh. Tesla’s right about them.)

    When the Bolt comes out in maybe 7 months time, either I can afford it and I’m stoked, or I can’t and I pick up a crazy deal on any other non-Tesla EV, all of which will have been rendered instantly obsolete and available at fire-sale prices. (The Leaf and Spark have probably bottomed already, but others have much further to fall…I’m looking at you, Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive.)

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    I found several used Leafs for sale near me with less than 15K on them. The prices listed are under $10K. While there are plenty of tax incentives for the first owner to lower the initial purchase price, the first owner is also saddled with depreciation costs of close to $1/mile! That is luxury car territory.

    I wonder what the percentage of these cars were leased? No matter whether it is Nissan or an individual, somebody is taking a bath on a Leaf.

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