Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. will launch its redesigned Leaf this week, with all eyes on how the all-electric vehicle’s battery range will stack up against its Tesla Inc. and General Motors Co. competitors.
The Leaf is the reigning EV champion in sales — Nissan
says it sold more than 280,000 Leafs worldwide, from the car’s debut in December 2010 to last month.
It remains to be seen whether the battery range will go up, or whether Nissan will offer options in battery size at different price points, offering a larger range on costlier trims. The 2017 model, which starts around $31,000, offers a range of 107 miles.
“If the range goes up and the price remains the same, the new Nissan Leaf will continue to offer one of the least expensive and practical ways to own a pure electric car,” said Ed Hellwig, a senior editor with Edmunds.
The car probably won’t offer as much range as the Chevy Bolt, but if the Leaf delivers even a modest bump over its current range, it will be enough to get the attention of most mainstream EV shoppers, he said.
“The original Leaf was easily recognizable, but not very attractive. This time around Nissan is promising a more conventional design that should make the Leaf more appealing to a wider range of buyers,” Hellwig said.
Nissan on Thursday declined to offer details on the new 2018 Leaf ahead of the unveiling, set for Tuesday at 6 p.m. Pacific.
The Leaf’s current battery range compares with at least 220 miles for the Model 3, which
launched in late July, and 238 miles for GM’s
Chevy Bolt. The Model 3 starts at $35,000, while the Bolt starts at $38,000.
The battery range on the new Leaf will likely be around 150 miles, said Karl Brauer with Kelley Blue Book.
That would give the Tesla Model 3 the battery-range advantage as well as a brand and style
advantage over the Leaf, he said. The Nissan EV could have an upper hand on base price over both the Bolt and the Model 3, and the high availability advantage over the Model 3, Brauer said.
The Bolt is widely available. For the Model 3, customers putting down a $1,000 reservation on the car can expect to receive it in 12 to 18 months, according to Tesla’s website.
The Model 3 is the linchpin of Tesla’s expansion plans, which include launching new passenger and commercial vehicles and arriving at a production rate of 500,000 by the end of next year.
At a conference call earlier in August after company results, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk told analysts there should be “zero concerns” about achieving that production goal. Tesla sold its first-ever pure bonds in August to secure a smooth financial ride for the Model 3 production ramp.
Related: Tesla’s cash burn likely peaked
GM’s Bolt, launched in December 2016, recently set the mark for an all-electric vehicle range in a Consumer Reports testing, reaching 250 miles on a single charge, the magazine said earlier this month.
Overall, the Bolt is Consumer Reports’ No. 2 recommendation for electric vehicles, behind the much pricier Model S, Tesla’s luxury sedan. The GM car got dented for an “overly squishy” brake-pedal feel, long charging time, choppy ride, and uncomfortable seats, the magazine said.
Tesla dominates the EV market, with its two pricey vehicles, the Model S and the Model X luxury SUV, making up nearly half of the market this year, according to Edmunds. Only a handful of Model 3 sedans were sold since the late July launching.
The Bolt supplanted the Leaf as the third best-selling EV this year, as consumers shied away from the car ahead of the redesign. U.S. sales of the Leaf have reached 112,128 for the year.