What does it take to drive the message home that electric cars can make real economic sense?

For Nissan this involved giving drivers free gasoline then telling them that’s what it would have been like driving an all-electric Leaf – all for the cameras, of course.

Nissan’s latest 30-second spot that began running today does not exactly spell out that electricity is not free, but true enough it is far cheaper, and that’s the angle Nissan has taken of late.

From 2012. Polar bears are still eligible to save gas too.

From 2012. Polar bears are still eligible to save gas too.

Yes, the company that early on featured a polar bear hugging its owner in the driveway emphasizing the environmental angle is appealing to customers closer than the North Pole, and touching people where they live – mindful of their wallet.

So, even as gas is now averaging around $3 per gallon, the Nissan advert is to educate people on a message that almost four years later is still quite the revelation to many a consumer.

As automakers report high sales driven by SUVs and pickups, Nissan keeps refining its message on its super efficient commuter car.

And the formula for the world’s most bullish mainstream-priced EV purveyor appears to be working.

The company is also offering inexpensive leases from $199, expanding markets, and has seen 21 straight months of U.S sales records for its global best seller.

This Nissan is doing even as it has not announced a replacement for the Leaf the way GM has for the Chevy Volt.

Both cars were launched at the end of 2010, but as extended-range Volt sales trail previous year’s Nissan keeps pulling relatively strong.