Some quietly broken news this past week was that the 2019 Nissan LEAF is expected to have 225 miles of range, potentially trolling the base Tesla Model 3 by 5 miles.
That would put the LEAF #5 of the list of electric cars with the most range, only trailing the Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X, Tesla Model 3 Long Range, and Chevy Bolt. Range is not everything, but it’s a huge deal for electric car sales. Every significant boost in range seems to result in a similarly significant boost in sales. So, how would a 225 mile 2019 Nissan LEAF compete with a Tesla Model 3?
Of course, we don’t know yet, but below are a few things to consider.
The Tesla Model 3 will certainly benefit from a vast, well integrated, reliable, well designed network of superfast charging stations. Previous research we’ve conducted shows this is a critical requirement for many EV drivers in their next EV purchase, but there are also plenty of people who don’t need this and new EV drivers who don’t feel any need for public charging. It’s a significant advantage for Tesla, but Nissan’s fairly developed CHAdeMO network of fast chargers — constantly improving — offers a lot of support for regional EV driving as well.
The Tesla brand seems to be the hottest corporate brand in the world these days. It reminds many of where Apple was when Apple was much smaller. No doubt, that strong brand recognition is a big reason why approximately 500,000 people put down reservations for the Tesla Model 3 far in advance of delivery. However, hottest doesn’t necessarily mean biggest or deepest. Plenty of common people on the street couldn’t tell you what Tesla sells. (Plenty of Tesla owners can tell you stories of people asking what company makes their car, and then asking again — as if you didn’t understand — after you say “Tesla.”) But ask someone on the street what Nissan sells and you know they will be able to tell you. People will keep going to auto dealers and traditional car companies to buy cars. The question is, how many of them will be pulled to the Nissan LEAF once they find out how well the 2019 LEAF competes with gas cars?
Also, some LEAF specs* will be a bit lower than Model 3 specs (~6.5 seconds to 100 km/h rather than 5.6 seconds to 100 km/h; 100+ kW charging on a very limited superfast charging network vs 120+ kW charging on a widespread superfast charging network), potentially pushing buyers to the Model 3, but also potentially coming at a lower price. (Or not — if the LEAF battery has much more capacity than the Model 3 battery*, with a similar range being the result of the Model 3’s superb aerodynamics and efficiency, the LEAF price might not be able to undercut the Tesla Model 3 price.)
The 2019 LEAF price* in the leaked documents shows as “TBD,” so we don’t really know yet if this longer-range LEAF will come in at the ~$30,000 price, ~$35,000*, or will be a higher-trim option in the range of the Tesla Model 3 price, but we can be pretty certain that a 225 mile LEAF with ProPILOT won’t be much different in price from a Tesla Model 3 with Autopilot. What other cars offer such range, electric driving benefits, semi-autonomous tech, and affordability? How many customers will understand the LEAF’s competitive advantages compared to the number that understand the Model 3’s? How much will Nissan put its strong advertising muscle and funding into LEAF marketing to help people learn?
Estimating 2019 LEAF sales seems quite challenging to me, especially without a price. I’m estimating 400,000–500,000 Model 3 deliveries in 2019. With that, the above points, and historical LEAF sales in mind, I’m going to optimistically estimate 200,000 LEAF sales in 2019. What percentage of Model 3 sales will be the Standard — not higher priced Long Range — Model 3, I have no clue. I do expect most 2019 LEAF sales will be the longer-range LEAF, but I again wouldn’t venture to put down a precise guess.
What’s your guess on Model 3 vs LEAF sales?
*Nissan LEAF specs in the text table are not official, but rather speculative, with only the range coming from a leaked Nissan document.