Can Nissan Hold On To Its EV Leadership Position With the New Leaf?

I watched the archived live stream this morning of the Nissan event in Tokyo. At first I was really impressed with the design, as it was exactly as the leaks had previously shown. But after thinking about it more after a few hours, it’s harder to get as excited by it as I expected to be. As the world leader in EV sales, I expected Nissan to really throw down the gauntlet to other manufacturers and set an extremely high bar for them to try and match.

I’m far from convinced that they’ve raised the bar enough and by not wowing us, they may have already effectively given up their market leadership. I don’t think the Model 3 base version will be that much more expensive than this car (especially once the bigger battery comes out), and with the huge advantages it has over the Leaf, it seems likely to me that Tesla could steal the throne away from Nissan. If they can ramp up production fast enough to meet demand that is.

On the lower price end of the market, I would expect Renault to do very well with the current Zoe. It is a very affordable car and will likely be the obvious choice for many buyers over the next year or two. It remains to be seen whether any competitors will emerge in the next year in this segment, but even if something else comes along, Renault will likely be unchallenged for at least the next 6 months if not significantly longer.

I do think the new Leaf will do well, but if it is confirmed that the car doesn’t get faster than 50kw charging and still has type 1 rather than type 2 slower charging for Europe, then those things could really hurt them. Especially if it is also the case in Europe, like in Japan that the 6.6 kw charging is an optional extra. In my opinion, 7kw type 2 charging ports should be mandatory on every single EV sold in Europe. Who wants to have a different home charger fitted just because the manufacturers can’t agree on a universal standard?

There are some other small things that I find particularly irksome about the Leaf. The analogue speedometer really seems out of place in a car like this and is something I would really not want to go back to. The rear folding seats don’t create a flat load bay and the Bose subwoofer is poorly positioned.

So in conclusion, once I took a step back from all the razzmatazz, I wasn’t wowed like I hoped I would be. Perhaps once the longer range battery becomes available and they allow 80kw or more ChaDeMo charging, I’ll be convinced. But price and what range the general public will accept will also play huge roles in the success of this car.

The fact that Nissan haven’t been able to match Renault’s top EV range is a problem because range is the biggest factor EV buyers think about. Even if the Leaf is a higher quality, bigger car, to many people, that is secondary to how far they can drive it without having to think about plugging it in.

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