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Nissan Takes EV Battle To Tesla With Longer-Range Leaf

Nissan Takes EV Battle To Tesla With Longer-Range Leaf
Deciding to go head-to-head with Tesla Inc’s Model 3 and hoping to blunt criticism of limited driving ranges undermining EVs’ mass-market appeal, Nissan Motor Co Ltd launched a revamped Leaf electric vehicle (EV) on Wednesday.
By packing new technologies to make up for a shorter driving range than rival offerings and  jump-starting demand in major markets such as the United States, it aims to “double, even triple” annual sales of the previous incarnation, the automaker said.
“If it’s successful, the Leaf will be a major part of the portfolio of Nissan,” Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa said at a launch for the new version of the world’s best-selling battery-powered car. “EVs will no longer be a niche product.”
Up from its predecessor’s 107 miles due to a bigger, 40 kilowatt hour (kWh) battery, the car can run for 150 miles (241 kilometers) on a single charge according to U.S. regulator estimate. The car will be on sale in Japan from Oct. 2 and elsewhere in early 2018.
Start from 3.15 million yen ($28,992) will be the price in Japan. 
With its $35,000, 220-mile Model 3 its first foray into the Leaf’s more affordable price band was made in July by luxury electric car maker Tesla and this launch comes soon after that. Indicating the challenge Nissan has in preserving the Leaf’s number-one rank, Tesla has said it has received half a million orders for the Model 3.
In an effort to dispel the image of EVs being only for the affluent and environment-conscious and drawing on its more mainstream designs including the Micra and Rogue, Nissan, whose first Leaf was among the first mass-market EVs, has given its marquee model a sporty facelift.
Along with its combined accelerate and brake “e-pedal” and including single-lane highway driving and self-parking, the mid-sized car comes equipped with Nissan’s latest automated functions.
“The pricing is flat, (yet) we have a full model change... You have autonomous drive technology, a new battery, new powertrain. How can this be unattractive to a young customer?” said Ivan Espinosa, vice president of global product planning.
But particularly in the U.S. where gasoline prices are historically low, it is hard to lure a meaningful number of drivers away from conventional cars due to the current EV driving ranges which are too short despite all the improvements, analysts said.
“Until we see a significant improvement in range and/or economics that feed through to a rise in gasoline prices, EV buyers will be buying for environmental or altruistic reasons,” said Janet Lewis, head of Asia transportation research at Macquarie Securities. “It’s still a very, very niche market.”
In order to see a significant shift to mass-market EVs, a range over 250 miles and price around $30,000 would be needed, industry experts said.
Data from the International Energy Agency showed that worldwide EV registrations numbered just 2 million as of 2016. In comparison, 80 million non-commercial vehicles were sold last year alone. To date, 280,000 Leafs have bene sold by Nissan.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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