U.S. Markets open in 3 hrs 16 mins

Nissan Leaf analysis: Is this car still competitive? Absolutely. Here's why

John Beltz Snyder

The next generation of the Nissan Leaf has made its debut, and it's definitely an improvement over the previous car. It's a lot better looking, with a sleeker, more planted stance and an similarly attractive interior. It's more powerful than the outgoing version, but still manages to provide more driving range. Still, Tesla is already rolling out the Model 3, which provides up to 310 miles of range, and the Chevy Bolt has been available for even longer, with 238 miles of range. So what does Nissan think it's doing launching a car with just 150 miles of driving range on a charge?

For one thing, the Nissan Leaf is cheaper. At $30,875, it's a lot cheaper to get into a Leaf than it is a $35,000 Tesla Model 3 or a $37,495 Chevy Bolt. And especially with the Tesla, you probably won't want the base version, so you'll end up spending even more.

First of all, who needs 300+ miles, anyway? Not current Leaf drivers who, while they'll certainly be happy about getting more range than before for less money, already understand what it's like to live with an EV. It's not a stretch to think that a large number of 2018 Leaf customers will be EV veterans, who have lived with a limited driving range for some time already, and have gotten over that anxiety. Really, it's only a rare occasion that most drivers will need to travel beyond the Leaf's 150 miles of range. Experienced EV drivers are comfortable with that limit, especially if they have another vehicle in the household. Otherwise, they're not afraid to spend a few extra minutes at the fast charger on longer drives, or even rent (or borrow) the occasional gas vehicle when the need arises.


Frankly, Nissan probably doesn't even have to offer the 225-mile "e-Plus" Leaf coming in the 2019 model year. Nissan knows the Leaf will have a limited audience, but it wants that audience to grow. A higher-performance Leaf will serve to help cast a wider net, bringing in new EV owners, the ones who still feel like they don't want to give up the range whether they need it or not. This will help build a customer base for upcoming electric models — a new set of customers who have made the leap to an EV and are already part of the Nissan family.

Nissan's other strength is its experience. The Japanese automaker has been selling the Leaf since 2010, and has delivered more than 283,000 units of the EV around the world to date. It has decades of experience selling cars in general. Nissan is confident that it's gotten the little things right in the 2018 Leaf, and, after our brief experience with the car, we think the sense of quality, available technology and attention to detail will pay off for Nissan.

Finally, the Leaf will inform other vehicles Nissan makes. While the previous Leaf seems like sort of an outlier in the automaker's lineup, the new generation brings the car back into the fold. It will serve as a platform to promote "intelligent mobility" as Nissan calls it, and its experience with the Leaf will provide a template for future electric cars, as well as more traditionally powered vehicles that want to incorporate more efficiency, safety, and automation. Plus, the Leaf could underpin other vehicles. We've already heard rumors that Nissan could be the basis for an entire line of EVs, beginning with an SUV inspired by the Terra concept.

So, don't worry about the range. We're certain many thousands of happy new Leaf customers won't be.

Related Video: