At some point during the 2012 Detroit Auto Show, Nissan sold its 10,000th Leaf in America. Not bad for an all-electric car that has been on sale for just over a year and is not yet available in all 50 states (this landmark will be achieved by March, though). Brendan Jones, the Leaf's marketing and sales strategist for Nissan North America, was understandably enthusiastic: "From a Leaf perspective, 2011 was a great year and very positive for the company. [10,000 sales] is more EVs than have been sold in the United States – and 20,000 globally – than all the other OEMs combined throughout the world. So that's an outstanding achievement."

This enthusiasm embodies Nissan's public face about the Leaf and electric vehicles in general, a tone set by Nissan-Renault Alliance chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn. To follow up the Leaf, Nissan and Infiniti will introduce three more EVs in the coming years: the eNV200 van that was on display at the Detroit Auto Show, the Infiniti EV that will be shown in New York later this year and another vehicle. We've speculated about this fourth vehicle before, but thought it would make sense to ask Castelli and Nissan spokesman Mark Perry to give us more hints about what we'll be seeing next. Click past the jump to read more.

According to Perry:

We're in the mass-market division with the Leaf, a vehicle purpose-built to hit the middle of the mass market. Infiniti is the luxury division and now, a hint toward commercial [indicating the eNV2000, pictured above]. So, what's left? Well we want to go back into the mass market and figure out what's the next symbol of our innovation. So we want to maintain our leadership position with zero-emission vehicles, so what do we do next? What we showed in Tokyo were four pretty different concepts. One of those, or a blend, will be the next vehicle. People always say, "Do a sports car." That's fun, you can do a sports car, but what does that do for the brand? Some... but is it enough? Do you do an urban commuter car? Yeah, you can do that, but other people are doing that, too. So, it's finding the next thing. With in-wheel motors, all of a sudden completely different architectures are possible.

This, of course, brought up Nissan's three Pivo concepts. Perry said that Pivo 3 (pictured below), the most recent one, "was closest to production-capable we've done so far." But, he said, Nissan doesn't want to signal to the marketplace that EVs have to look that outlandish. "With in-wheel architecture and not having to design around some of the design constraints we have with ICE [Internal Combustion Engine], all of a sudden you can start changing that. But how far do you want to do that the first time?" Not too far, is the answer, argues Perry, so the company's designers are walking the fine line between what is possible and what can be sold to make sure Nissan's next EV signals enough change to maintain leadership but doesn't get too carried away. Perry added, "We're beyond niche and test markets and playing around. We've got billions invested."

nissan pivo 3

EVs also offer unique possibilities for customization. Perry cited Siri, the new iPhone voice recognition assistant, as hinting at what's possible with a plug-in car. How can you talk to your car? How should you talk to your EV? "Do you start customizing your vehicle to say, 'it's Saturday. I'm an electric vehicle and I can set a different drive experience, I can set a different acceleration.' It's all software and so the ability to customize exponentially grows," he said.

We're beyond niche and test markets and playing around. We've got billions invested.

How long has it taken the Leaf to become available nationwide? If the March, 2012 deadline is met (and there's every reason to think that it will), then the entire process will have taken 16 months. There is no way that Nissan's next batch of plug-in vehicles will need to be rolled out in the same way. When the eNV200 is released – its global launch is scheduled for 2014 – it will be marketed mostly as a commercial vehicle instead of just as an EV, says Joe Castelli, VP of commercial vehicles and fleet for Nissan North America. It will thus first be targeted at the places where Nissan's commercial vehicles do well, places like the northeast, California, Atlanta, Chicago and south Florida. The shift from these initial regions to national availability will be much quicker than it was with the Leaf. Castelli mentioned two main reasons for this: plug-in vehicle infrastructure should be much further evolved and gas prices will likely be higher, boosting demand.

nissan plug video

How will Nissan attract buyers beyond those who are already interested in EVs? High gas prices will encourage the general market to plug in just as it does the commercial buyers, but Nissan has quite obviously already started using a two-pronged approach to letting customers know about its plug-in vehicles. Just look at the cute little Plug videos (pictured above) and the singing sockets. These appear to target new buyers, people who are not familiar with EVs. But Nissan is also putting out detailed information that appeals more readily to educated early adopters (think here of the information about the Leaf's relationship with Japan's post-earthquake recovery process). These two approaches work in concert. Once Nissan has gotten a potential buyer's attention, a most likely destination for them will be the Nissan Leaf website. This site will be updated in the next 90 days to include better and more detailed information, including improved range simulators that people can play with to see if a Leaf is right for them (hint: from a range perspective, it most likely is. According to Nissan's data, the average driver of an ICE car goes 37 to 39 miles a day, while EV drivers go 33. The Leaf's official EPA range is 73 miles. Most people think they drive a lot more than they do). An updated infrastructure map along with more information about DC fast charging will also be added to the website.

More owner testimonials will be part of the messaging in the near future, too. There will be two consistent themes we can look forward to: that EV drivers don't know – and don't even care – what the price of gas is and that the EV often starts as a household's "second" car but quickly becomes the "first" car. As Castelli put it: "[The Leaf] is legitimate. We've moved past the old jokes about golf carts, now we have to take that dialogue and move it much more into a volume equation on how we can push this out to the masses." Perry added, "The people who are trying to write the Leaf off already are just negative, period."


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 74 Comments
      JeremyD
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why not a 2+2 with a smaller, lighter chassis. Something like the Toyota Celica, and sporty. I bet they could get similar range out of a 25% smaller battery 18kWh and be able to sell it for ~30k (22500 after tax credit). Just use the same motor and components used in the Leaf and get the younger generations on board with EVs. That mini-van looking monstrosity will just turn most people off.
      Neil Blanchard
      • 2 Years Ago
      That's a funky-looking Leaf... Neil
        PR
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Neil Blanchard
        Nissan Trunk? Nissan Log? Nissan Stump?
      • 2 Years Ago
      Though I'm a happy LEAF owner, the eNV200 looks too odd to succeed to me. I'm waiting for an affordable EV sports car, so I'm impatient for Nissan to make that sports car. We knew that a van was coming, so I guess the eNV is probably the best indication of what is coming next from Nissan. As far as Mark Perry's comments, I don't see anything there that indicates where Nissan is going to go after the van. As I said, I want that sports car, but I'm afraid that they'll make something goofy looking like the Pivo. Something like that might be attractive in Europe, but it'll go exactly nowhere in the US. I hope that Nissan realizes that.
      Craig
      • 2 Years Ago
      I just hope the offer some more range soon. My Leaf is good for 85% of the driving I do. Think of the space options with no motor under the hood. Love the Leaf, good job Nissan.
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Craig
        I hope they can get the price moving back down so it can attract more customers. Hopefully getting the Smyrna plant up & running will help with that.
        marcopolo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Craig
        @Craig Congratulations, welcome to driving on electrons! The little eNV200 looks to be a useful addition to light commercial transport.
      Yegor
      • 2 Years Ago
      For next car: 1. Leaf is a good product - work on lowering the price, extending the range. 2. May be Plug-in Hybrid with 35 miles EV range.
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      Since we are looking at vans, and it seems ABG is not going to do an article about it, news from the UK is that electric vans are now eligible for a 20% subsidy when previously as commercial vehicles they were not. It is for up to £8,000 and so good news for anyone insane enough to buy the Ford Connect EV. More sane folk can buy the Renault's at a fraction of the cost. Of particular interest to private buyers would be the Kangoo ZE crewvan, much more spacious than the Leaf and which with the subsidy can now be bought for £18,592 including 20% VAT: http://www.thechargingpoint.com/news/Plug-in-Car-Grant-stays-until-2015-vans-now-included.html http://www.renault.co.uk/vans/model/kangoo-van-ze/exploremaxicrew.aspx Battery hire presumably also has to include VAT for private use, and so £74pm for 12,000 miles becomes £89 Cheap rate electricity here might cost you around £0.09kwh, so running cots for fuel and battery hire at 1kw/3 miles are around £0.12 per mile. That compares to a diesel van at, say, 10 miles litre and £1.37/litre coming to about £0.14 per mile. There is no road tax on electric vehicles, insurance is comparable and a maintenance contract is 80% of that for the diesel. Residuals are 45.7% on the electric van, and only just over 1/3rd for the diesel. Clearly even outside London and its congestion charge electric vehicles are the most economic choice.
        marcopolo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        @Dave Mart Yes, this support for EV commercials is brilliant news! It's unfortunate it came a little late to save Lord Jamie Borwick's , Modec Commercial Vehicles. However, it's still great news from a cash strapped UK Conservative Government. The Conservative party heavyweight, Mayor Boris Johnson is jubilant that the subsidy he has supported for so long , has finally become reality ! (such a contrast with US conservatives). Well done old Dart.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @marcopolo
          I find it incredible that the cost benefits of electric cars are already here. Of course, there is a fair whack of subsidy in this, but I am confident that Nissan/Renault will take out cost as they have said they will over the next couple of years to be competitive without. When the cost of taxation on fuel is levelled things will be rather tougher, with it fuel duty on diesel being £0.83/litre. However, looking at the lower depreciation then the ~12% lower loss means that you are about £0.06/mile better off at 12,000 miles/year over the diesel car, so we are close to the £0.08 we need to equal diesel For older cars lower maintenance and servicing should cover most of the difference. And all this is ignoring likely oil price rises over the next few years. Even at current oil prices ignoring the purchase subsidy and adding tax, it is pretty much a wash.
        lne937s
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        Autoblog UK reported on it: http://uk.autoblog.com/2012/01/18/ev-grant-extended-vans-now-included/ The Renault Kangoo ZE had a pretty compelling financial case going for it before the incentive. With incentives, I think any urban delivery business with set routes using compact vans would be foolish not to buy them.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @lne937s
          Typical ABG. We get a write up on every SUV with the word 'Eco' in its title, and nothing on measures which should result in the sale of many thousands of electric vehicles a year, and which will help ensure the success of them for everyone, Americans included. As I note above, for private drivers wanting a big, roomy electric vehicle the Kangoo ZE crewvan is a great buy, apart from commercial use. A lot of the diesel versions are used as taxis here.
      Warren
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sadly, the Leaf, or any of the EV's making it to the market, are totally conventional cars, with electric drivetrains. Which means their are too big, and inefficient to make good use of electric power. So we end up with huge, long charging, expensive battery packs, and poor range. The big manufacturers reserve the clever designs for concept vehicles they will never build, and small companies can't compete. If people wanted innovative vehicles we'd already have them, with ICE powertrains! http://www.21stcenturymotoring.com/ http://www.edison2.com/ http://www.lynxcars.com/ http://www.t3motion.com/gt3_consumer.html
        Dallas May
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Warren
        Your mistake is that you don't understand people. (No office, most people don't.) People generally don't like change. Think about Windows XP. How many people do you know that are still using the 12 year old operating system? You probably know quite a few. People don't like change. They like seeing what they are used to and knowing that they work. Another example? Consider wine corks. Why do wine bottling companies still use this ancient technology? Is there really no way an engineer could design a better cork? Of course there is, but people don't like change. People like their cork. And people like their boring car. Cars don't need large front ends to house their motors any more, many designers from many companies have thought of much more clever and space-saving form factors. But people don't like them. People don't like change. That's why people are scared of electric vehicles right now. EVs represent something new -unproven. The good news is, it only takes one generation to accept something new. In about 20 years, a new generation will be come to maturity that won't see EVs as anything special. They will be old and proven. That's when adoption really begins to accelerate. We just have to wait a bit longer.
      Ronald Wolf
      • 2 Years Ago
      There are only so many early adopters out there and the GOP already wants to end the tax credit on BEVs. So Nissan really needs to work on reducing the cost of these vehicles.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ronald Wolf
        If they hit their sales targets Nissan will have used up the 200,000 vehicle allowance eligible for subsidy by the end of 2012 anyway. If the US cancels them before that they will just have to prioritise other markets. In the UK for instance subsidies have just been confirmed out to 2015 and vans added to the eligibility. The US can't, IMO, stop the electric car revolution. It can delay it somewhat, and fall way down the leaderboard.
          MTN RANGER
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Wait, when has Nissan announced that they are going to build 190k Leafs for the US in 2012?
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          My bad. I meant 2013, and should have said in around mid 2014. They have sold 10,000 electric vehicles in the US in 2011, hope to sell 20,000 in 2012, and their factory is to have a battery capacity of 200,000 packs whilst they will build 150,000 Leaf cars. So the unknowns are how fast they will build to full capacity, and what they do with the other 50,000 battery packs.
          brotherkenny4
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          I have expected exactly what you are saying for some time. That is that the rest of the world would bring about the electric vehicle and the US would then have to catch up. We are very used to that position now (we should expect more of the same). Our politicians and industrial leaders work together to prevent advancement and protect the current money makers markets. Here in the US, we protect oil and coal. The good news for us is that the rest of the world will develop the electric car.
      Craig
      • 2 Years Ago
      As a surfer and parent the van is of great interest to me.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Craig
        I do hope you keep them all separate. Becoming a parent whilst surfing is difficult enough, don't try to do them both whilst driving your car!
          PR
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Damn lefties always trying to ruin everyone's fun.... *grin*
        EZEE
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Craig
        @Dave Smartbutt! :D
      JP
      • 2 Years Ago
      Nissan, stop wasting time and just make the ESFLow!
      Wolfgang
      • 2 Years Ago
      Taste may be different in Japan, but to me the Leaf is about the ugliest car for sale. It's downright ridiculous to mimic a valve housing in the former engine compartment. Who in their right mind think that early adopters would be reassured by dressing up power electronics to look like an internal combustion engine? For anyone it's a commitment to buy an EV for today's very steep prices, how much would I enjoy being mildly ridiculed by my friends for the looks of a Leaf? Quite on the contrary I'm convinced that EV enthusiasts want to make a statement driving an EV. Of course an EV's body design should reflect the simplicity, elegance and superiority of its drive train, and yet again should take full advantage of its packaging options. Just look at the outstanding design of my Vectrix, for which I often get compliments even before many realize it's electric.
        marcopolo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Wolfgang
        @Wolfgang But Vectrix was also criticised for being too heavy, and looking much like a motor scooter! It's all just a matter of taste and getting used to new concepts. No model will satisfy everyone! Thank goodness for variety! Vive la difference!
        garylai
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Wolfgang
        I've received nothing but compliments on how my Leaf looks. And I've received a lot of compliments.
        amtoro
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Wolfgang
        Curiously, I have received tons of comments from strangers at almost every place I go, about how much they like the looks and size of the LEAF.
          EJ
          • 2 Years Ago
          @amtoro
          There are some people who like how my Leaf looks. I think they're crazy.
      axiomatik
      • 2 Years Ago
      If Nissan is smart and they want to mainstream EV vehicles, their next release should be some sort of crossover ala Rogue/Rav4/CR-V/Escape/Equinox etc. Sure a taller vehicle doesn't maximize efficiency, but aim for the heart of the market, not the fringes.
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