Nissan Announces Increased Leaf Driving Range, Will It Matter?

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Nissan Leaf

Nissan is hoping to boost sales of the Leaf electric vehicle by debuting a mid-cycle refresh with improved driving range. This new Leaf could come as soon as early August with the automaker wasting no time in trying to revive the car’s slowing sales. Is it enough to make a difference and get people behind the wheel of the Leaf?

The range increase comes from an improved lithium ion battery that will be the same size as the 24 kWh battery in the existing car, but with 30kWh of power that will let the Leaf travel roughly 125 miles on a single charge. The current Leaf has a range of only 84 miles per charge. According to Automotive News, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told shareholders that they’re aiming for batteries that allow ranges comparable to gas vehicles.

The Leaf first launched back in 2010 and, despite the hype surrounding electric cars, has seen its sales numbers fall in the US. They’re off by 25% through the first five months of the year with 7,742 units delivered. Expiring EV tax credits are part of the problem as is range anxiety which continues to be a deciding factor for many who simply will not buy an electric vehicle.

Nissan is also hoping to convince those who are in leased Leafs to buy their cars rather than trade when the leases expire. They’re offering up to $5,000 as incentive to buy.

During the presentation to shareholders, Ghosn shared the stage with a prototype of the next-generation Leaf. It is currently being tested and has a range of over 310 miles per charge. That’s more than enough to get most people through their day with plenty of juice left for unexpected stops.

Nissan could wait until that tech is perfect, but has instead chosen a mid-cycle refresh to keep up with the crowded EV market. In 2010, the only electric vehicles in the world were the Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Today, there are 12 different cars by 11 different automakers with more in development. Nissan cannot afford to wait.

The increased range of 125 miles is a good first step, but an extra 50 miles or so isn’t likely to convince someone to finally go electric. There’s also the cost of these small cars which is more than similar gas engine vehicles.

Nissan is moving ahead with the latest Leaf, but an incremental change isn’t likely to sway any new buyers. What the Leaf needs is a substantial range increase and that looks to be several years away.