Is the Leaf Losing Its Charge?


Nissan introduced the Leaf, a five-door hatchback electric car, in December of 2010. Since its release, Nissan has sold one quarter of a million Leafs worldwide, which makes it the best-selling highway-capable electric car in history. The award-winning all-electric vehicle produces zero greenhouse-gas emissions from the tailpipe. Nissan built its own battery production plants to provide a 24kWh EV battery with 192 cells that weighed in at 480 lbs. With overall production and sales consistently coming in below the original estimate of 200K units per year, Nissan has announced plans to sell its technology and battery production facilities to GSR Capital, a private Chinese investment group.

With an EPA-rated range of 107 miles, the Nissan Leaf is expected to see a major redesign. At just over a hundred highway miles, the Leaf can be compared to Chevrolet's Bolt, which has a range of 238 miles. Although Nissan has not revealed its future marketing strategy for the Leaf, it is expected that the automaker will continue to deliver a fully electrified ride with one of the lowest price stickers on any dealer's lot. It has been suggested that newer versions of Nissan's EV may come with battery options, similar to optional engine sizes in gasoline-powered cars and trucks.

Nissan had originally funded the building of its Smyrna-based battery plant in Tennessee from $1.4 billion in loans from the U.S. Department of Energy. With overall production falling short of expectations, Nissan believes the move away from production will allow the development of a larger capacity battery that also can be supplied to other automakers. Before that happens, Nissan will need to purchase 49% of the stock that is held by NEC Corporation of Japan, as well as obtain securities approval for the buyout. But, consumers interested in purchasing a lower-priced EV should keep an eye out for future releases of the Nissan Leaf.

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