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