Monthly Cost of Nissan Leaf EV Will Equal Fully Loaded Civic and Fuel, Nissan Says

By Scott Doggett November 13, 2009

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Pricing has not been set yet on Nissan's Leaf electric car (pictured), which will see limited distribution starting late next year, but the automaker's top marketing executive for North America told us today that the monthly cost to the consumer should be equivalent to the monthly cost of a fully loaded Honda Civic plus its fuel.

(Article updated 11/13/09 to correct pricing.)  

That means the purchase price (about $28,000) or comparable monthly payment for a high-end Civic plus the cost of the gasoline it would need to cover 1,200 miles (at 30 MPG and $3/gallon, about $120), said Brian Carolin, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Nissan North America.

Although Nissan's global plan is to sell the zero-emissions car without battery and to lease the battery to car buyers at a cost roughly equal to the $120 calculated above, both Carolin and Mark Perry, Nissan's director of product planning and advanced technology strategy for North America, told GreenCarAdvisor that Nissan has not yet decided how to price the package in the U.S.

"We may sell the car and battery together, we may lease it as a package, or we may sell the car and lease the battery," Carolin said. "We just haven't decided yet."

He said, however, that Nissan expects to announce pricing for the world's first mass-produced 5-passenger electric vehicle early next spring.

Carolin, interviewed in Los Angeles at the national introduction of the Leaf, which now will begin a 22-city marketing tour in advance of its late 2010 on-sale date, said Nissan will be limiting initial sales in order to keep tight control over quality and "user-experience" issues.

He said Nissan expects to sell only 10,000 to 20,000 of the cars in the U.S. by the end of 2011. At that time, though, all bets are off as the company launches a global marketing campaign for its electric vehicle, which has a top speed of 90 miles per hour and a range of 100 miles between charges.

The uncertainty over how Nissan handles the battery issue for U.S. customers exists because Nissan's marketing people simply aren't sure if Americans can be persuaded to buy a car without a key piece of the powertrain -- the battery that stores the energy that makes it go.

The reason Nissan wants to lease the battery, CEO Carlos Ghosn said at the event, is to relieve the customer of responsibility for the battery and to make it easier to replace old batteries with improved batteries as the technology advances.

Ghosn said that Nissan is working on second- and third-generation batteries with new chemistries that could improve range and power, reduce battery weight and cost the consumer less. But Carolin said the first of those batteries would be four or five years away.

As for the first-generation batteries, Carolin said they will be good for at least 10 years of useful life.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor

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