The Nissan LEAF electric vehicle (EV), now on the market for three years, recently hit 25,000 total sales in the United States, according to the automaker.
The official Nissan press release said the LEAF has sold more than 62,000 units worldwide and is “the world’s best-selling electric vehicle.”
Nissan Director of EV Marketing and Sales Strategy Erik Gottfried said, “From the beginning our goal with LEAF has been to bring affordable, zero-emission transportation to the mass market in a practical, fun-to-drive package. With more than 25,000 LEAFs in the U.S. and 62,000 around the world, we’re seeing the adoption curve for EVs accelerate, and there is tremendous interest not only on the West Coast but in a number of new strongholds like Atlanta, Raleigh, Denver, Dallas, Chicago, St. Louis, and many more.”
Nissan’s own backyard of Nashville is starting to see more businesses and government entities catering to EVs, as well. On several recent trips to that city, I’ve seen public charging stations for EVs at hospitals, parking garages, and even Lane Motor Museum, and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, a restaurant chain based in nearby Lebanon, TN has been installing charging stations at every one of its locations nationwide.
Perhaps the growing availability of EV charging stations in key markets like those Gottfried mentioned is helping the LEAF grow its sales. The press release said the LEAF sold 423.5% more LEAFs in April 2013 than in April 2012.
Nissan’s Director of EV Infrastructure Strategy and Deployment Brendan Jones said, “We’ve also learned how infrastructure plays a role in a consumer’s decision to go all-electric. We already knew that areas with a higher concentration of EVs would require more charging stations, but trends show that the reverse is also true—a more robust charging infrastructure generates greater interest in EVs and stimulates more EV driving among EV owners.”
This may be an answer to the EV Chicken-and-Egg Conundrum we’ve covered many times here in the past. Maybe Nissan is seeing substantial evidence that widespread public charger availability spurs EV sales. The issue then becomes convincing private business owners that enough of their customers and/or employees are interested in or own EVs to make installation and maintenance of public charging stations beneficial to the bottom line.
For its part, Nissan says it continues its effort to convince businesses and government entities of exactly that:
Jones said, “Nissan is taking a three-prong approach to bolster infrastructure by working with commercial charging partners to bring a variety of charging options to our customers, collaborating with businesses to encourage workplace charging on their campuses, and engaging in pilots with our dealers to determine how to optimize the role they can play in EV infrastructure. This enhanced infrastructure—particularly with more businesses offering workplace charging as an employee benefit—builds range confidence and gives EV drivers better end-to-end charging ability, meaning they can leave home fully charged, plug in at work and be charged when they leave.”
The other part of the EV equation– steep pricing when you don’t factor in massive tax subsidies on every unit sold– is largely dependent on sales growth. To that end, Nissan started building the LEAF in Smyrna, TN this year and was able to lower its starting price thanks in large part to the local assembly’s ability to dodge an unfavorable exchange rate between the Japanese yen and the U.S. dollar. The LEAF had previously been assembled for the U.S. market in Nissan’s Oppama, Japan factory and was available only in SV and luxe SL trims. A new LEAF S trim that launched this year combined with the cost savings of American manufacture allowed Nissan to price the cheapest LEAF below $30,000 for the first time– before tax incentives.