General Motors, Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive have all been making noise about their new electric sedans, due out this year and next. Now Nissan is stirring up buzz for its upcoming electric model, the Leaf. Not only did it announce that it will start taking reservations for the car in April, it finished its national tour of the lithium-ion powered vehicle in New York with a bang.
With a 100-mile driving range, and a price tag competitive with other mid-priced commuter vehicles, the Leaf is designed to be both practical and environmentally friendly. Nissan has every reason to be confident about the model’s chances, too. It just nabbed a $1.4 billion loan from the federal government for a Leaf production facility in Tennessee. And Hertz just aired that it will add the Leaf to its fleets across the country. At the same time, Toyota, perhaps Nissan’s biggest competition in the green space, is mired in recalls that could permanently damage its Prius brand.
Those interested in reserving a Leaf before its launch later this year are required to pay a $100 deposit — much more reasonable than the pricey deposits required for Fisker’s luxury Karma. This makes sense, given that Nissan is positioning the Leaf as an affordable family vehicle.
Still, the car’s price tag seems to be a sticking point. Despite all the positive reviews the Leaf has garnered during its 24-city cross-country tour, analysts are still saying its success depends on how affordable it ends up being. The average car consumer isn’t going to spring for a pricier option, especially one with a low driving range just to reduce their carbon footprint, they argue.
Nissan has yet to divulge the Leaf’s price. Rebates and tax incentives are sure to be included, but the batteries necessary for powering such a car remain extremely expensive, with no impending decline in sight. Carlos Tavares, chairman of Nissan Americas, has suggested that the Leaf will cost about as much as a Honda Civic. And considering how much drivers will save on gas, it should pay for itself within a short enough time frame. If Nissan can pull this off, it could seriously steal the Chevy Volt’s thunder. The most exciting part: It looks like we’ll definitely find out before the end of the year.