Nov 20 Nissan Motor Co, hoping to boost
disappointing sales for the Leaf electric car, on Tuesday said
it has improved the driving range of its alternative-fuel
vehicle by 14 percent and lowered its price tag.
Nissan officials said changes to the remodeled Leaf, shown
Tuesday in Tokyo, were based on comments from customers who
voiced fears of their vehicle running out of its electric charge
and stranding them.
Electric vehicles, including the Leaf, have not caught on as
fast as some expected due to concerns over driving range, as
well as the lack of a charging infrastructure and customer
resistance to paying too high a price premium over similar sized
"When technologies employed to cars are still in their first
generation, it's not so easy for customers to try them out. We
think that our new pricing and improvement in performance could
be key to helping customers switch to electric vehicles," Nissan
Leaf engineer Hidetoshi Kadota told reporters.
The remodeled Leaf can run 228 km (140 miles) when fully
charged up from about 200 km before. Nissan officials said the
car shed some 80 kg (180 pounds) through powertrain
rearrangement and a lighter lithium-ion battery structure.
The driving range with use of air conditioner has also
improved from the 120 km in the first-generation model,
executives said, though they declined to give a specific figure.
In the new model, Nissan lowered the starting price of the
Leaf in Japan to about 3.3 million yen ($40,700) from 3.8
million yen by introducing a lower grade. With subsidies, that
starting price drops to around 2.6 million yen.
The remodeled Leaf went on sale in Japan on Tuesday and is
set to be released in the United States in the first quarter of
2013. The sales timing for Europe has yet to be
Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn has acknowledged that
achieving the goal to double global Leaf sales this fiscal year
to about 40,000 vehicles would be difficult. Nissan sold 11,720
Leaf cars in the six months to September.
The Leaf is not the only EV to struggle. In the United
States, General Motors Co's Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid
car has come short of expectations, while Fisker Automotive's
Karma plug-in has experienced numerous problems, though both are
hybrid cars that include a gasoline engine as well.
The new Leaf has more room in the trunk than the previous
model after the charger was moved to the front of the car. It
also has a more efficient heating system, executives said.