Nissan says Leaf electric car is 'game changer' for car sector

May 18, 2010 by Roland Jackson
Nissan's electric vehicle Leaf is displayed at a press conferecen on the pre-order announcement at the company's global headquarters in Yokohama in March 2010. Japanese carmaker Nissan hopes the launch of its new mass-market electric car is a "game-changing" event that will transform the auto sector and help triple its profits, say industry analysts.

Japanese carmaker Nissan hopes the launch of its new mass-market electric car is a "game-changing" event that will transform the auto sector and help triple its profits, say industry analysts.

But they warned that its success is riding on whether the price is really low enough to win over the masses or not.

Nissan announced in London on Monday that its new Leaf vehicle will be sold in western Europe for under 30,000 euros (37,105 dollars), after government incentives that are aimed at encouraging use.

The car, which has a top speed of more than 140 kilometres (90 miles) per hour and is powered by a , will go on sale in Portugal and the Netherlands in December, and in Britain and Ireland in February 2011.

The Leaf -- which stands for Leading, Environmentally Friendly, Affordable, Family car -- is billed by Nissan as the world's first mass-produced electric vehicle with .

"We do believe this car is a game-changer in terms of this technology and it will play a role in the future," Simon Thomas, Nissan's senior vice president, sales and marketing, told AFP at a London press conference on Monday.

The firm, which is 43.4-percent owned by France's Renault, also forecast that will account for 10 percent of world car sales by 2020.

Japan's number three automaker had revealed last week that it bounced back into profits in its 2009/2010 financial year -- and forecast profits to more than triple on hopes for its new electric car and emerging market demand.

European reservations for the Leaf can be made from July, while the car will be rolled out in every major western European country by the end of next year.

Nissan added that its electric car will cost around the same as a diesel or .

"The Renault-Nissan alliance is investing over four billion euros to lead the auto industry in electric vehicles, with eight products across three brands," Thomas said.

The huge investment includes five battery plants and seven confirmed assembly factories, including one in Sunderland, northeastern England.

Industry experts were impressed by the advent of Nissan's mass-market electric car -- but added that the vehicle was not cheap.

"It's the beginning of a very different sort of industry," Peter Wells, automotive expert at Cardiff University, told AFP.

"It does mark a quantum leap forward in terms of mass-market product cars," he said, adding that the Leaf is "not by any means a cheap car".

Nissan's five-seater hatchback has a range of 160 kilometres (100 miles), can be recharged through domestic power supply in about eight hours, or topped up to 80 percent capacity in 30 minutes at electric recharging stations.

John O'Connor, director of Warwick University's low carbon vehicle transportation project, described the Leaf as "ground-breaking".

"It is ground-breaking for the first high-volume electric vehicle," O'Connor told AFP, but also cautioned that it was "quite expensive ... and really for the early adopters".

Nissan hopes electric vehicles will boost growth and compete with Mitsubishi Motors' i-MiEV and Fuji Heavy, which makes the Subaru Plug-in Stella.

Toyota, the world's largest car maker, has focused on petrol-electric hybrids such as the Prius, but has also promised to launch its own electric car by 2012.

Nissan does not want to be beaten by Toyota in the marketplace for electric emission-free cars, according to Wells.

"It shows that Renault-Nissan are well ahead of the pace on this," Wells added.

"Toyota took a 10-year lead on the industry with hybrid technology. This is an attempt to grab back the initiative."

However, he sounded a note of caution about the economic outlook amid the eurozone's mounting crisis over high levels of state debt.

"It's becoming unstable -- it could turn quite nasty and if it does then the car industry could be in a difficult situation," said Wells.

From December, will sell the Leaf in Japan for 2.99 million yen, when government incentives are included.

Technological breakthroughs in the development of long-lasting lithium-ion batteries have significantly and lowered the cost of electric vehicles and increased their range and top speed potential.

The Leaf will not be the first mainstream electric car on the market. Mitsubishi Motors recently rolled out its "i-MiEV" minicar while Fuji Heavy Industries launched the Subaru plug-in STELLA.

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User comments : 8

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fixer
1 / 5 (1) May 18, 2010
Perhaps Nissan could be satisfied with only doubling its profits and sell the car for 10k less.
Caliban
2.8 / 5 (4) May 18, 2010
Perhaps Nissan could be satisfied with only doubling its profits and sell the car for 10k less.


Agreed.
But this "gamechanger" claim is a little premature-until they can triple that range, and quarter the recharge time, they won't be able to compete with ICE-powered cars, simply because most people can't afford to keep a gasser around for extended travel, and still buy a LEAF for their commuting.
Gotta give them credit for trying, but still,
they need to TRY HARDER! As it stands, I would expect the VOLT to outperform this vehicle, in sales terms.
Husky
3 / 5 (2) May 19, 2010
this "triple profits" boasting makes even the greenest of consumers feel ripped off in the wallet
Husky
4.7 / 5 (3) May 19, 2010
However they got one important thing going for them and that is their partnership with Renault, the government of france has dictated that electric cars (read: france autoindustry) must be a succes and so the france government will implement/subsidize a huge national program to put charging points everywhere and have governmentagencies/departments mandatory buy electric cars, guess what brand???? Also the u.s. and japanese autoindustry are because of the crisis and cheap cars from china/korea hit in a way, that they got to do something "new" to capture back lost terrain.
Husky
5 / 5 (2) May 19, 2010
What would be interesting would be a new bussiness model, that utillitycompanies, selling electricity come into the game and would starting to put their charging points everywhere, they are the ones that could make money if a lot of people went electric, so they could perhaps boost that market if these public charging points were equipped with smartcards so that the consumer draws electricioty/gets billed from/by his own provider, i could forsee package deals in wich a consumer buys electricity for his/her home from company X and car and in turn gets offered a partially subsidized elec car (just like mobile phones get subsidized) and the remainder of the sum is in the from of a cheap loan with low interest. this would help lower the threshold for consumers and company X could make a lot of gigawatts worth of money in the long run from these brand X loyal consumers...
DaveMart
5 / 5 (2) May 19, 2010
In the UK if you do 12,000 miles/yr and average 30mpg you will save around £2,000 pa on petrol.
If you pay the London congestion charge you will save another £2k pa.
Zero rating for tax and free parking together with extremely low maintenance costs (only a couple of moving parts) cover the costs of electricity at around £240 pa at 10p kwh
The battery is good for around 100,000 miles or about 8 years at 12k pa.
Over the 8 years you would have saved £16k outside of London, or £32k if you pay the congestion charge.

The battery is unlikely just to stop working, but will accept less charge, around 70-80% of the rated capacity.
Many who do not wish to travel far on any particular day can continue to use the battery for many years more.
Alternatively, the battery currently costs £6-8k.
In 8 years time you would be able to sell the existing battery for use as back up power and buy one with around double the capacity for the same price, so you could go 200 miles on a charge.
Duude
3.7 / 5 (3) May 19, 2010
Absolutely NOT a game changer. The lithium battery, while the best available today is far too expensive, and not yet capable of storing the type of energy necessary to make it a credible challenge to the internal combustion engine. Hybrids are still much more economically feasible.
kcameron
4 / 5 (3) May 19, 2010
IMHO, the Leaf's gamechanger status will be determined solely by its sales figures. If customers around the world buy them in large numbers and, in fact, generate large profits for Nissan then we'll soon see a lot of similar vehicles from other manufacturers. Then the game will truly have been changed. I believe this is pretty much what will happen.

On the other hand: what happened to the ~$25000 price estimate?