Nissan Leaf – Click above for high-res image gallery

If the Nissan Leaf was a glitzy casino game inside a Las Vegas hot spot, Ward's Auto suggests that few people would be willing to place their bets in hopes of hitting the jackpot. The odds for the Leaf would, in typical Vegas fashion, be in the house's favor. Stepping away from the lights of Sin City and back into reality, Ward's, like Forbes before it, believes the Leaf is Nissan's multi-billion dollar investment that may end up going down as a great effort that never pays off.

What are the odds of success for the Leaf? It's hard to say exactly, but if hybrids and their success (or lack thereof) is any indication, the Leaf has quite a challenge ahead. As Ward's guest commentator John McElroy points out, after a decade on the market, hybrids have captured only a marginal amount of sales – just 2.5 percent. That's ten years, seven brands and 20 different hybrids, yet only a minor fraction of total sales. McElroy adds that electric vehicles (EVs) are expected to face an even more difficult time cracking the market. But, even if you assume that EVs can match hybrids, the Leaf's impact appears minor, especially when you consider that other electric vehicles will compete for their piece of the pie.

Here's our take on it. Renault-Nissan has poured $6 billion into electric vehicle development and will likely hold the biggest chunk of that 2.5 percent. But a big piece of 2.5 percent is still mighty small. Leading us to wonder if Nissan is placing a risky bet on future success or just intent on using the vehicle as a marketing tool to show off just how "green" it is. If it's the latter, $6 billion is quite the chunk of change to get a point across. Still, the Leaf could lead to an electric future with the odds strongly in Nissan's favor – and that's a gamble worth taking.

[Source: Ward's Auto]

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