Want A Long Range Electric Car? Nissan Doesn't Think You Do

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2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

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If you're holding out for an electric car that gets similar range to your fossil-fuelled car, then don't hold your breath for one from Nissan.

That's the message implied by Nissan North America's director of product planning and strategy, Mark Perry.

Speaking with Auto Observer, Perry says there is "no market need" for an electric car that gets hundreds of miles between charges. Nissan's own research shows that, despite a range approaching 100 miles, the average Leaf owner only does 37 miles per day.

The average journey length is even shorter, at only 7 miles from power on to power off. The data shows that owners of the first large volume electric car on sale use less than half their car's range per day. That makes a longer range unnecessary, in Nissan's eyes. Independent studies have shown that 95 per cent of drivers in America do fewer than 100 miles per day.

It's fair to say that Perry's claims aren't unfounded. Nissan has been able to collect unprecedented user data from Leaf owners and a huge amount of anecdotal data too from online forums, blogs and email. Nissan also relies on a 1,500-person owner panel for research and feedback.

Much of that feedback has shown that in multi-car households, the gas-powered vehicles become the secondary vehicle, with most trips - the more regular, shorter trips - taking place in the Leaf. Range anxiety? Pah. Studies show it disappears after only three months. When you regularly do short trips, there's no range to be anxious about.

It's perhaps worth pointing out that although Nissan's research stands up to scrutiny and also reflects wider research on vehicle usage, 2011 Nissan Leaf owners probably wouldn't have bought their cars had they not already known their driving habits were suitable for the car. Those who truly need greater range are unlikely to buy a Leaf. After all, if you had to ford a river every day, you'd probably buy something fit for purpose.

What the research more reliably shows is that electric cars are suitable for a great many drivers, even with their current relatively low ranges.

Once the price of electric cars comes down, we expect to see a great deal more of them on the roads. In times of austerity, it's value, not range, that will help sell electric cars.


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Comments (24)
  1. Of course Nissan will find the average Leaf users drive short distances. Nobody in their right mind would buy a Leaf if their daily commute is outside its range, DUH!!!!
    I bet Nissan will also find 99% bicycles are not used daily for interstate trips too.

  2. I think you left off an important dimension in this article. The question isn't entirely about range. A car with double the range would cost over $10k more than the existing Leaf. My Leaf can do everything I need for it except for a few exceptions. If I were to just rent a car for those times, it would cost around $500/yr. I come out ahead buying the shorter range Leaf.

  3. No need for Nissan to be cocky - offer the buyer a choice to buy whatever battery capacity works for them, 100 miles, 200 miles or 300 mile range.

  4. I was struck with the same thought of Michael. Of course people want a 300 mile range EV. However, they economics are not there.

    Firstly, the battery would be very expensive, and would be very seldom used. So you would be paying a lot for something you will not use.

    Worse, you would be carrying this battery around with you every day. The added weight would significantly decrease the efficiency of your EV.

    It is the real weakness of EVs. To increase range, you must add more battery, that adds more weight, decreases range, so you need to add more battery. Annoying.

  5. "the economics are not there"...Tesla certainly seems to beg to differ, but they are operating in a different market segment of course and their battery cost seems to be in a better place than Nissan's.

    Still, the economics for a bigger battery than what Nissan uses may be better than you think. It wouldn't get cycled along most of it's capacity so much like Nissan's battery which would expand battery life/lower battery cost per mile. Also a bigger battery would have more "spare" capacity to deal with capacity loss after many cycles of use again increasing battery life and decreasing battery $/mile.

    Weight is a valid consideration but I still think Nissan might have gone for a slightly (25%?) bigger battery.

  6. "Tesla certainly seems to beg to differ." Well let's just say that Tesla is undecided. What is the biggest battery change from the roadster to the model S? They decided to offer a range of battery sizes to mitigate the battery cost issue. Also, they tend to talk about the $50K price of the model size, which has only a 160 mile range, and not about the $80K price of the model with the 300 mile range.

  7. I really don't see what's undecided about a 85KWH batterypack. In fact Elon Musk is quite adament that batterycost will continue to sink (he expects to as low as $200/kwh; I suspect they are not too far away from that right now) and batterysizes will continue to grow. Of course Tesla does offer a range of batterysizes, but even the smallest pack is almost twice the size of the Nissan Leaf's and it's very clear from what I read in the comment sections of green car blogs that people really want this.

    Note: fast recharge times and batterysizes are substitutes to a certain extend. The faster a battery can be recharged, the smaller the optimal packsize will be.

  8. @Chris O.
    I stand corrected. With the Model S at 160 miles MINIMUM Tesla is clearly voting for a larger battery pack that Nissan. The only thing undecided is how much bigger.

  9. exactly what i said when everyone was clamoring about range anxiety.

    and like michael just stated, there are trade-offs. the price of the ev today keeps more people away than the range does.

    and that will come down as supply goes up.

    companies just need to start making more. it is a big change for them, and it is gonna take some time.

  10. I thought the claim last week in favor of a plug-in hybrid with a
    too-tiny battery because "it won't take as long to recharge" was the ultimate example of overly-enthusiastic, non-discriminatory
    brainless pumping of electric vehicles. Now we have a contender
    from Nissan. The art of salesmanship , my computer science professor once told our class, was to present a defect as though it were a "feature." A car's not claustrophobic, it's "cozy."
    An extended range electric is not needed because it "costs too much." And "takes too long to charge."

  11. Why stop at what 95% americans do? why not aim for the 99%. In my opinion, when lighter and better batteries are available for similiar or less price to the current one, even Nissan will be forced to offer a battery with longer range.

  12. When the price of the batteries start to drop, it would allow Nissan to increase the range of the Leaf without increasing the price very much. If Nissan doesn't offer some different ranges in the Leaf, I believe it would be a big mistake. There are also a lot of people that drive over a 100 miles frequently enough that need that range.

  13. Or might it be that as the batteries get better, it would allow them to use fewer, drop the price, and still provide 100 mile range?

    Kind of depends on what YOU want to pay for...

    Jack Rickard

  14. Like they say:there is lies, damn lies and statistics. No doubt it's true that 95 per cent of drivers in America do fewer than 100 miles per day but people are still going to want a more versatile vehicle. So of course Nissan will offer a longer range EV in the future. In fact they suggested new battery chemistry and 180 miles range by 2015:


    Nor does Marc Perry deny that of course, he only suggests that the technology Nissan currently has on offer offers plenty range for what current users do with it. But Nissan knows very well that the bigger the range, the bigger the market.

  15. Lets see if I've got this straight: Nissan targeted a survey to all those that drive short range electric cars and asked how far they drive. Good one. Nissan will benefit from this for sure.

  16. I wish I had the link, but I remember a U of Delaware report on the driving habits of Americans. They had instrumented a number of cars and logged the driving for a year.

    About 9% of the people NEVER drove more than 100 miles per day. This is a very difference statistic than you hear from EV advocates.

    I think it represents what most of us already know. Most days you drive well less than 100 miles but occasionally you take longer trips.

  17. @John: All true. GM will tell you, in fact, that a similar data set shows that more than 70% of U.S. vehicles travel less than *40* miles per day.

    The more relevant question is how often the travel goes over that. If it's just twice a year, at some point it will become cheaper to rent a vehicle and buy a cheaper plug-in car (that may not happen til 2020 or after), but if it's twice a week, then indeed it makes sense to buy a car for the household that can do that.

  18. What I think shows the greatest promise from any electric car I’ve seen so far is the “10 minute” charging system developed by Nissan, that was shown in 10/14/11's All Cars Electric.
    Ultracapacitors (UCs) powered it. Although UCs, hold considerably less charge than lithium, consider several UCs be wired-together for a battery of them, much like lithium cells in Tesla’s drive trains. Would multiple UCs maximum total charge be < or > Tesla’s lithium cells have in an equivalent sedan’s available space and weight? Durability’s > electrochemical’s. Does Nissan’s faster recharging time begin to suggest how to reduce a lot of range anxiety with recharging perhaps, as fast or faster than a gasoline car of equivalent range’s refill time?

  19. As has been stated, if you ask an opinion from a group of people who already ascribe to the beliefs you hold, you'll get an amazing continuity of opinion!

    The only way I was able to purchase my EV (a Th!nk City) was to get (very) actively involved with the City where I work and the power company and bring them together to get a Level 2 charging station installed in the City garage where I park all day. That should be completed soon. In the meantime, I use the 110V to charge, so I can return home. I have a 120 mi. round-trip commute and let me tell you, 100 mi. range is optimistic....I have to travel on highways (higher speed), use headlights, wipers, defrost, etc., so while I don't have 'anxiety', I do use caution.

  20. Come on, the data is obviously skewed in favor of folks that drive short distances because they bought a car that goes short distances between charges. If buyers needs to drive their Leaf for long distances between charges then they probably would not purchase the Leaf.
    If automakers sold a reasonably priced electric car that needed little refueling or no refueling at all (wishful thinking) then that would be the car to buy. If automakers want meaningful studies, than ask the common Joe or Jane “appropriate questions”. They’ll be amazed on the responses in favor of electric vehicles. I think Mr. Perry is a pretty smart guy, perhaps he is feeding the gasser industry what they want to hear, as opposed to volunteering the complete story.

  21. Interesting story, but I don't agree with the authors summary.

    The Leaf population is not derated because they KNEW they needed less range when they bought the Leaf.

    Actually, most of them DID worry about range when they bought the Leaf. They found, in LIVING with the Leaf, like almost all lithium powered electric car drivers do, that for 90% of their use of a car, they just don't NEED 100 miles. The national average is 39.4 miles per day. And the Leaf owners seem a little lower at 37 miles per day.
    There are two main questions about electric cars - range and recharge time. And these questions are ONLY posed by people who have never driven an electric car. Why don't you just ask one that has?

    Jack Rickard

  22. On weekends I would love to drive my Leaf on longer range trips to see friends and places outside my current range, but I can't, so I don't. Nissan's research pulled from my trip information won't show those trips because they had to happen in our gas powered car. Of course drivers want more freedom - unfortunately it may just come in the form of quick-charging infrastructure.

  23. i will continue to post this very simple fact. evs will have on them what is needed, in order to sell what is manufactured.

    if we needed a lower price, the price would be lower. if we need a higher range, the range would be higher.

    you guys still arent getting it - they arent gonna give you anything that they dont need to. like all businesses, they want as much money from you as they can get.

    so, when the weakest link (supply) improves, and more cars are made, the price, range, etc. will be good enough to attract enough buyers such that the cars are sold.

    today, they are able to sell the evs at a high premium, cuz demand far outstrips supply.

    these next 10 years will see dramatic changes in the ev evolution.

  24. Ridiculous, I didn't buy the leaf because it didn't cover the range of my commute. I would have bought an electric car IF there was a sedan that covered a range of 120 miles. Right now Tesla is my only real hope, albeit completely unaffordable, to middle class such as myself. I hope that the other big manufacturers "learn" from the technology and provide more competition to the market sometime soon.

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