Skip to main content

Will the Nissan LEAF copy the Tesla Model S with battery options?

There are rumors and rumors of rumors that Nissan plans to offer a range of battery pack size options akin to what Tesla Motors does with the Model S. Is this true?

Since the Nissan LEAF was first introduced, many have asked when it will get more range; either through better battery technology or more cells. Rumors regarding Nissan extending the range of the electric car are persistent and often come to the fore any time a change is announced for the LEAF.

Well, the rumors are back again. This time thanks to remarks made by Andy Palmer at the New York Auto Show, which have been interpreted by some as meaning that Nissan does indeed plan to not only increase the range of the LEAF, but offer it for sale with multiple range options in a way similar to the Tesla Model S.

That, coupled with a survey that Nissan did of current LEAF owners earlier this year, seems to be poking the donkey on the rumor mill again. That survey specifically asked LEAF owners how much they would be willing to pay to buy an electric car with a 150-mile range.

According to Green Car Reports, Palmer said that a longer-range LEAF is a "subject of intense debate" inside Nissan's walls. We wondered if that's true, so we reached out to a friend in the Nissan LEAF's marketing and development office.

I was told that the current and potential range of the LEAF is always a matter of discussion within Nissan's inner sanctum. "We continually evaluate what we believe the market will bear," my source said. There is a balance between "what people will buy and how much they will pay." That balance holds true with any vehicle, electrified or not; it just so happens that with an EV, it's usually about the battery cost versus the range they'll give.

"Right now, the LEAF sells very well in its current form," I was told. "Of course, we want to expand the market for electrics and many possibilities are on the table when we discuss how we can do that."

Note that there was no denial that battery pack options as a customer choice is an option Nissan is considering. An astute reader will also note that last statement and the fact that it carefully skirts around the notion that the LEAF will be Nissan's only electric car.

That latter point is important. Nissan will be launching the e-NV200 electric commercial small van in about a month into various markets. That's the obvious next market for the LEAF powertrain as-is. Other Nissan options for electrifying include the entry-level luxury compact car segment and the midsize sedan and compact car segments. Not to mention the conversion of the e-NV200 into a van ala the Ford Transit Wagon.

I find it more likely that Nissan will expand the LEAF idea into other vehicle segments than seeing them dilute the LEAF into various "range options". It just makes more sense, from a traditional motor vehicle marketing standpoint, to keep the LEAF as a one-range pony and add more range in other model options.

What are your thoughts?


Bruce Stout (not verified)    May 3, 2014 - 10:27PM

Battery Powered Electric Vehicle buyers are divided into 2 camps.
Short distance city drivers and people like me who have driven over 30,000 kilometers or 18,000 miles in 12 months. My next vehicle needs to have a longer range than my current Nissan Leaf. As I have enjoyed a GASOLINE FREE year driving my Nissan Leaf, I will not be buying a hybrid vehicle. That leaves TESLA as the only choice unless another manufacturer steps up with a longer range battery powered electric vehicle.

Douglas Stansfield (not verified)    May 4, 2014 - 11:57AM

In reply to by Bruce Stout (not verified)

The best way to sell EVs is to show people the cost difference per mile compared to a gas car. EVs win every time. With my Nissan Leaf at $0.03 per mile it always wins against gas cars. Now, who buys a lot of gas? People that have long commutes. So if you have 60 mile each way commute, wouldn't you save a ton of money by switching to Electric? Of course however, only the Tesla is an option at the moment. Nissan should be wise about this and note this is the sweet spot for EV sales!

Aaron Turpen    May 5, 2014 - 2:44AM

In reply to by Douglas Stansfield (not verified)

Depends. Do the math. I can spend an average of $100k on a Tesla Model S (car plus charger plus install plus cord(s) if any) for that commute or $20k on a Nissan Versa for the same drive. Even if the Versa only manages to get 30 mpg, I'm still only using two gallons each way. At $4/g (pretty pricey gas there), that's $16/day in gasoline, five days a week for $320 per month. Add to that my car payment, which will likely be under $200, and assume insurance is the same for each car (it won't be, the Model S will be more expensive, but we'll call it even anyway) and my total cost for this car is $520 per month. At best, I will break even getting a Model S, but that's not likely. I'll probably be spending more to get that Model S on a lease or buy. In most cases, that S is going to cost nearly double. That's just using Tesla's own calculator. Musks "$500 month" scheme was called out last year and found to be bunk, with the actual monthly being more than double that. In fact, with that monthly cost for the Model S, I could do the same math and get a Chrysler 300, Chevrolet Impala, and a host of other cars, including gasoline to drive, cheaper than the S. Where they'll lose out in maintenance costs, though, I'd suspect it would wash once you figure in the higher insurance premium for the S (insurance is based on vehicle price, after all). So I always take the claims of "now I don't spend money on gas, my EV saves me money" with a lot of salt.

Randall Fontenot (not verified)    May 4, 2014 - 4:40PM

I drove my Nissan Leaf a whole year for the cost less than $176.00, this is a great car! (6,123 miles.)

robert (not verified)    May 4, 2014 - 4:50PM

What should be considered is out of the box thinking make range upgrades available which would be more work for the dealerships which will enhance sales as purchasers know they can kick their range up a notch and other bolt o. Options like cordless charging. Nissan needs to show flexibility And creativity to increase profits and compete with Tesla. Tesla keeps making adjustments why can't Nissan?

Aaron Turpen    May 5, 2014 - 2:54AM

In reply to by robert (not verified)

Nissan is a bigger company and doesn't have to prove itself. Nissan makes CARS, not just electric cars, and makes MANY TYPES of cars, not just one. Tesla can afford to "make adjustments" because the relative cost is cheap compared to the huge PR payoff they'll get when they hype those changes. BTW, you still cannot "wirelessly charge" your Model S to my knowledge. With or without a "bolt on" option. You can, however, charge your Nissan LEAF free of charge at any of a number of stations and you can do so at more stations than you can a Model S because the plug isn't proprietary.

mike w. (not verified)    May 13, 2014 - 5:54PM

In reply to by Aaron Turpen

The adaptors are about $100 each. The CHademo to tesla adaptor is around $1000. sold separately. The $2000 is for the "Free" electricity and construction/maintenance of the Supercharger network. Since The tesla Mosel S can go say 300 miles on a charge you need way way fewer charging stations.

mike w (not verified)    May 4, 2014 - 7:24PM

We also have a LEAF and it didn't take long getting use to not buying gasoline. More often than I thought I need more range than the current Leaf we have and we are considering a Tesla Model E when it comes out.

Jouni Valkonen (not verified)    May 9, 2014 - 4:56PM

I think that the biggest problem is that as such, Leaf does not compete with other Nissan cars. However if Nissan would offer 300+ km premium midsize sedan, it would likely cannibalize Nissan ICE sales. Nissan has quite strong market share (e.g. Quashqai is a best seller car in Finland) on ICE cars, so electrification may pose risks. E.g. battery longevity may be significant risk factor.

Tesla on the other hand had nothing to lose and they took risks with more energy dense batteries. And aimed to the most profitable premium car segment.

Aaron Turpen    May 11, 2014 - 12:54AM

In reply to by Jouni Valkonen (not verified)

I honestly don't think Nissan would care if their LEAF were to cannibalize sales from their other cars, since they'd still be getting the overall buyers. The LEAF competes with the Versa on many levels and the LEAF is more profitable per unit as well.

Douglas Stansfield (not verified)    May 10, 2014 - 9:30AM

I have a Nissan Leaf and Ford C-Max Energi Plug in Hybrid. Leaf does all the local stuff with ease... my wife even asked me the other day what the gas price was! Imagine that! Driving all the time and never even worrying about Gas. So I drive the C-Max. Getting 75 MPGs and got 60 in the Winter (due to the fact I don't like being cold. So with that I have significantly reduced my GAS price increases risk. It is almost gone! I hope to one day own a 200+ range Tesla but can't afford it right now. Looking forward to it however!

Bruce Stout (not verified)    May 14, 2014 - 12:53PM

I have driven my Nissan Leaf for 14 months and have almost 20,000 miles, 35,000 kilometers on it for a Canadian dollar fuel cost of $700 which is approximately 2 cents per kilometer.
Car size is adequate for four 6 foot tall people and I occasionally have had 5 people in the car.
I can fill the trunk with lots of junk and with the passenger seat folded down a 6 foot long step ladder fits on that side of the car.
I would like a 20 percent longer range in winter as I tend to drive a lot, but the 2014 Nissan Leaf with its better heater and faster charger solves that problem.

My perfect car would be capable of 2 times the range but as long as I can find a charge station I can continue to drive the 120 kilometers 75 miles daily very comfortably.

Forget economics and low cost of operation. Just go drive a Battery Powered Electric Car. Once you have enjoyed the quick acceleration and the quiet vibrationless ride, you will understand why EV drivers will never go back to an ICE again.

Peter Overland (not verified)    August 24, 2014 - 1:28AM

I'd love to see the Leaf's technology stretched into a crossover sized vehicle similar to the Rouge. Call it the Nissan "River" or something cute like that (a la the Subaru "Forester"). I am a Leaf driver, and I love it, but would like to have a somewhat bigger hatchback format like the Rogue or Forester. Peter (Dallas, TX)