2011 Nissan LeafEnlarge Photo
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.