Nissan Really Hopes Free Juice Will Be the Leaf Blower It Needs to Clear the Lot

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
nissan really hopes free juice will be the leaf blower it needs to clear the lot

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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  • HotPotato HotPotato on Jul 07, 2016

    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.)

  • EquipmentJunkie EquipmentJunkie on Jul 07, 2016

    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.

  • Tassos ask me if I care.
  • ToolGuy • Nice vehicle, reasonable price, good writeup. I like your ALL CAPS. 🙂"my mid-trim EX tester is saddled with dummy buttons for a function that’s not there"• If you press the Dummy button, does a narcissist show up spouting grandiose comments? Lol.
  • MaintenanceCosts These are everywhere around here. I'm not sure the extra power over a CR-V hybrid is worth the fragile interior materials and the Kia dealership experience.
  • MaintenanceCosts It's such a shame about the unusable ergonomics. I kind of like the looks of this Camaro and by all accounts it's the best-driving of the current generation of ponycars. A manual 2SS would be a really fun toy if only I could see out of it enough to drive safely.
  • ToolGuy Gut feel: It won't sell all that well as a new vehicle, but will be wildly popular in the used market 12.5 years from now.(See FJ Cruiser)