Maybe there's a future for battery leasing among U.S. electric-car buyers after all.

Nissan had considered leasing battery packs separately before launching its 2011 Leaf, but ended up choosing to sell or lease the entire car.

So the 2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive is the first car in the country which offers buyers the ability to purchase the car outright--or to lease the battery pack.

According to InsideEVs, which spoke to Smart general manager Mark Webster two weeks ago, 90 percent of the first month's owners opted for the company's "Battery Assurance Plus" program.

Specifically, 53 of the 60 people who took delivery of a 2013 Smart Electric Drive in May opted for the program, which knocks $5,000 off the car's price of $24,995.

Given that a large percentage of electric-car buyers appear to be leasing rather than buying their cars, Smart has cleverly priced the battery lease so it costs the same as the regular lease.

That is to say, you can lease the Smart Electric Drive for $199 per month, or you can lease the battery-less car for $119 and pay a separate battery lease at $80 per month.

Webster notes that in California, a very high percentage of the cars are leased--and essentially every lessee opted for the program.

Our next question is, what percentage of buyers choose to lease the battery while buying the car itself?

For that, we'll have to wait until higher sales numbers are available a few months hence.

2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive

2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive

We wonder whether battery leasing--or, under another name, a post-warranty "battery assurance program" like the one Nissan plans to offer for its Leaf--will become more popular over time.

As the market for electric cars expands and new buyers are added to the owner pool every month, public awareness of battery-life issues will likely increase.

We suspect this is a story we'll return to in coming months.

Meanwhile, there are now more than 100,000 plug-in electric cars on U.S. roads.

First-year sales in 2011 were about 17,500 units; last year, that number tripled to about 53,000.

So far, this year looks as if it'll double the number again. Check our sales report next week for deliveries during the first six months of the calendar year.


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