Leaf In The Wind – After All The EV Niche Is Trying Its Best

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Nissan Leaf 2014

According to current statistics provided by the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association (OICA), the new car segment is on track to sell better than 15.6 million units by the end of 2014. However, while all-type auto projections appear to be impressive; when it comes to specifically showcasing the EV segment, the word ‘less’ will still have to apply as a rule, rather than an exception.

For example, the current electric car brand leader, the Nissan Leaf has just managed to hit a global sales milestone of 100,000 units after nearly three-and-a-half years worth of production; and of that total, 50% of those units were delivered in the US. Granted, it appears that ‘someone’ is buying the Leaf  –  particularly individuals in highly-urban centers like Atlanta and San Francisco. But elsewhere across the US, sales interest is accepted as being flat to non-existent.

Central to the EV sales problem is battery technology, or more colloquially put, ‘the horse that pulls the wagon’. In this case, current generations of lithium-Ion batteries are just not up to snuff when it comes to the rigors of daily driving, since today’s power systems tend to offer limited ranges, and long recharge cycles. Consequently, the impacts of both of these constraints tend to marginalize any premise of ‘get in and go’ personal travel and, therefore, reduce sales attraction.

On top of well-understood scientific limitations, practical restrictions begin to appear whenever new technologies evolve, and EVs are no different than any other. The impacts here usually lead to one or more unintended ‘gotchas’ as products mature, such as results from a recent study from AAA identifying battery range-loss factors of up to 50% whenever EV batteries are operated in cold weather. Consequently, then, one should also be prepared to accept similar results when it comes to measuring range-loss in hotter locales in the Deep South, Texas, Arizona or New Mexico, since heat is nearly as hard on rechargeable Li batteries as the cold is.

This type of negative recognition typically puts the vehicle’s value proposition at the bottom of an auto buyer’s ‘first-pick’ list, while at the same time, making the EV’s reputation less credible overall. That said, however, there will always be a sales niche for all-electric cars. So, if you’re one of those folks who prefer the sound of ‘zzzzzt’ versus, ‘varooom’ at least have a go at a Leaf, just as long as you don’t look for a lot of long-term value. After all, at 0.0064% of total marketshare what else can you expect?