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Nissan has confirmed that its next-generation Leaf will have a battery range long enough to drive from New York City to Baltimore on a single charge.
In light of the just-introduced Chevrolet Bolt concept, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said from the North American International Auto Show earlier this week that the next Leaf’s range may even exceed Nissan’s current 200-mile estimate.
“We want to be competitive,” Ghosn said at a news conference of a “high output” version of the Leaf. “It may have even more range.”
A new lithium-ion battery will be the source of this new 200-mile range. Nissan said it is developing a battery chemistry that offers an increase in power without adding to the battery’s volume, weight or cost. The next-generation Leaf, complete with this new battery, may likely be released by 2017. The current Leaf model uses a 24 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery and has a range of 84 miles.
“You can expect (our) EVs will only get better,” said Ghosn. “They are going to get more affordable and more competitive.”
Nissan also hinted about a possible new battery last month when Ghosn was reported on Japanese TV saying a “250 mile” range Leaf (on the Japanese cycle) was in the offing, and spokesman Jeff Kuhlman said the company will “very soon take the issue of range off the table.” Kuhlman said this would position the Leaf to better compete with the range and trustworthiness of gas-only cars.
Range anxiety – the fear of being stranded when a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) runs out of charge – is a put-off for many consumers considering an electric car. By addressing this issue, the Leaf has the potential to significantly increase its market.
That said, the present Leaf has already been showing its merit in the marketplace. It’s currently the top-selling electric vehicle, with a 42-percent market share in the U.S. Last month, the Leaf also became the second best selling alternative-fuel vehicle, outsold only by the hybrid market’s mainstay, the Toyota Prius Liftback. Worldwide, more than 150,000 Leafs have been sold, making Nissan the world’s leader for plug-in cars.
The positive sales curve is partly attributed to Nissan’s widespread marketing campaign, including cheap leases, a new “No Charge to Charge” promotion, and more. This latter program grants Leaf owners two years of free one-hour charges. Nissan is also planting charging stations, aims to double their number by the end of 2015, and said lower gas prices won’t deter the company’s future EV developments.
“We need to continue to develop the infrastructure for EVs and charging stations, and we will continue working on increasing the effectiveness of our EV technology including battery range,” said Ghosn in Detroit. “These investments will pay off over the long term and should not be dictated by the roller coast price of oil. So our strategies do not change. We will stay the course.”
Even though in the U.S. Leaf sales are higher than the combined sales of Tesla Model S and BMW i3 (the current second and third place BEVs for market share), additional competition is on the horizon. The aforementioned Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla’s smaller sedan, the Model 3, haven’t yet reached the production phase but are looming on the horizon. Both boast ranges of around 200 miles, and are believed likely to launch the same year as the new Leaf. Volkswagen and Infiniti may also release new BEVs with comparable extended ranges.
As for Ghosn, he’s not concerned about these upcoming models.
“We shouldn’t worry about who we are competing with. We should worry about increasing the share of the market” for electric vehicles overall, said Ghosn.