Model 3 shows demand for affordable, high range electric cars
With the introduction of the Model 3 in March and the receipt of deposits for over 250,000 in its first two days, Tesla has shown the world that there is, indeed, demand for an affordable, high range electric car. At least if its first name is Tesla. Since that time, the order tally has reached well over 300,000 units. Unfortunately, the Model 3 will not be available for at least a year and a half and that is only true for a select few. The question is, which will land first – Model 3 or LEAF?
The two main attractions of the Model 3 (beyond it being a Tesla) is that its starting MSRP (manufacturer suggested retail price) is $35,000 and with its 60 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery, it has a driving range of over 200 miles. I’ve said for some time now that these particular numbers hit the sweet spot for broader electric car uptake. Currently the Nissan LEAF has the highest range available in the $30,000 price range, with the 30 kWh versions offering a 107 mile EPA combined range. To double that range currently takes stepping up to the Tesla Model S 60 with a starting MSRP of $67,200, including destination fees. Tesla has none in inventory, but it could be custom ordered. The least expensive Tesla immediately available is a Model 70D (no longer in production) in the Rocky Mountain area for $86,350. Many potential EV owners do not want to spend that much. The Chevrolet Bolt will start production at the end of 2016 according to Chevrolet, so availability should be early 2017 at the latest. The Bolt also offers a 200+ mile range with its 60 kWh battery and its expected starting price is $37,500.
So where does that leave the LEAF? Just last week AutoblogGreen spoke with Nissan engineer Kazuo Yajima, Global Director of EV and HEV. Yajima confirmed the 60 kWh battery for the LEAF, just not when. The 2018 LEAF will likely be the next generation which will usher in this battery pack along with an all new body style. Nissan floated the IDS Concept in Tokyo last year with a 60 kWh battery and some futuristic looking lines. While we don’t expect the LEAF to be this dramatic looking, we can expect some similarities. Nissan has been moving their entire global design team to incorporate some key styling cues, notably the V-Motion grille, boomerang headlights and tail lights, and the floating-roof design. The current LEAF has no grille, so that element remains to be seen, but the others will likely be incorporated to some degree. The question remains – when will we see this new car? In my view, we will see this new LEAF after the Bolt hits the market, but prior to the first Model 3 hitting the ground. Tesla has said late next year for their Model 3, but they are notorious for missing deadlines. I suspect the 60 kWh LEAF will be in garages by the end of next year. With only 2,700 Model Xs delivered in its first six months or so, we think it could be awhile before Tesla can fulfill the majority of those Model 3 deposits.