Last week, Nissan became the third major automaker to unveil its second generation electric vehicle, after Tesla’s Model 3 and Chevy’s Bolt. The new all-electric LEAF is certainly an improvement over the original, which was groundbreaking in its day for being the first mass-market, affordable short-range electric vehicle. But it’s ultimately underwhelming.
Here is the good news:
- The design is much better. The old LEAF looked like a bug (and not in a good way like Volkswagen). This version is much sleeker and more appealing to the eye, bringing some needed style (photo above).
- The battery range is much improved. The old range was 85 miles, which went to 105 miles in the last version. This second generation vehicle can now go up to 150 miles, with plans for a 200-range model perhaps next year or 2019.
- The driving features are better. In particular, Nissan is catching up to Chevy with the “one-pedal drive,” where the car starts braking immediately upon release of the accelerator. It also has some “lane assist” and automatic braking features, also like the Bolt but well behind Tesla’s self-driving features.
- It’s super cheap, compared to other EVs. Despite the increased range, the price has actually fallen a bit, to below $30,000 (before incentives). That means that even though it has 80 miles less range than the Bolt, it’s also starting at $7000 cheaper. I gather that’s the big hope at Nissan, that the car will sell well because it’s cheaper.
But the bad news:
The range is pretty underwhelming, given what the Bolt just pulled off (238 mile average range per charge). How much money is that extra 45 miles over the last LEAF worth to the potential consumer, when they can get a cheaper, older LEAF with about 85 or 90 miles of range for about one-third of the cost of this car?
So ultimately, besides cost savings, what is this car offering a potential EV consumer? It’s hard to see, given the sporty Tesla Model 3 soon to hit the market, and the quality, affordable, long-range Bolt already available.
I certainly wish Nissan well and hope the car sells. But it feels like the company has some major catch-up to do to stay relevant in the EV world.