Are 100-mile BMW, Nissan, VW electric cars already a lost cause?

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2017 BMW i3

2017 BMW i3

The continuing tepid sales of the Nissan Leaf electric car, despite a range upgrade to 107 miles, remains one of the puzzles in the plug-in car market.

Sure, it's an aging model now in its sixth year with a polarizing design; it lost a huge swath of buyers in Georgia when that state canceled its electric-car tax credit; and gas is cheap.

But the 2016 Nissan Leaf is the very first nationally available electric car to offer more than 100 miles of range at a mass price.

DON'T MISS: What hurts Nissan Leaf sales: Tesla Model 3 or Chevy Bolt EV electric cars?

Two weeks ago, this site looked at possible reasons for the Leaf's slow sales, including the imminent arrival of the 200-mile 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV.

Then there's the Tesla Model 3, promised to go into production in the second half of 2017 (most analysts and competitors are skeptical that Tesla Motors can make that deadline).

As the best-selling electric car in history (roughly 250,000 and counting), the longer-range Nissan Leaf was supposed to provide a sales boost in the waning years before it's replaced with an all-new model.

2016 Nissan Leaf

2016 Nissan Leaf

Its battery capacity rose from 24 kilowatt-hours to 30 kwh, giving it an EPA-rated range of 107 miles—more than any 2016 electric car not named Tesla.

The 2017 BMW i3 is following suit, with a 114-mile range from a battery pack that rose from 22 to 33 kwh, fully 50 percent more capacity.

The older, lower-range models of both the Leaf and BMW's i3 will stay in the range, at least for a year, as the entry-level version for those who want to pay as little as possible.

READ THIS: Plug-in electric car sales for May flat: Leaf struggles despite range boost

The Volkswagen e-Golf, too, is expected to get a boost in range to something between 100 and 120 miles.

That updated e-Golf, part of a broader freshening of the entire Golf range for the 2018 model year, should show up sometime next spring.

So that's all good: the cars that delivered 80 or so miles of range two or three years ago now offer 105 to 115 miles for about the same price.

2016 Volkswagen e-Golf

2016 Volkswagen e-Golf

Yet that range increase has done nothing at all to raise Leaf sales.

Is the impact of the 200-mile, $37,500 Chevy Bolt EV really that large? Could the promise of a 200-mile, $35,000 Tesla at some point in the undefined future really be hurting sales of today's electric cars.

CHECK OUT: Tesla Model 3 reservations: 373K after duplicates, speculators removed

The answer may be yes.

And our reader Chris O, in a comment on the Leaf sales analysis two weeks ago, raised an even more unsettling prospect.

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