Nissan and Turo recently announced that they’re giving new LEAF owners $350 in credit to rent vehicles, so that people who own a LEAF can borrow another vehicle for road trips, home improvement stores, and other occasions where the LEAF won’t cut it. They’re calling it “own the car they want and book the car they need.”
“Nissan understands our LEAF customers and we know that there are times when they may need a different vehicle for a specific occasion,” said Aditya Jairaj, director, EV marketing and sales strategy, Nissan US. “With this offer, LEAF owners get a great electric vehicle that suits their everyday driving, but if they want a different vehicle to help move or take a large family on a road trip, Nissan and Turo are giving them options.”
Nissan’s press release goes on to describe its LEAF offerings, as well as a prior program where people could rent other Nissans through Turo from dealers.
The Dark Side Of This
While partnering with Turo seems like a trendy and innovative thing to do, offering rental car days with an electric vehicle is something other manufacturers were doing almost ten years ago. For example, a Fiat 500e (with its low range) came with 12 free rental car days per year so you’d have a vehicle to use on road trips. I’ve heard that Tesla used to have a similar program before the Supercharger network rolled out, but I couldn’t find anything to confirm it.
What ended these programs was that EVs improved. Tesla’s supercharger network made renting cars almost completely unnecessary. Even Fiat is offering a 500 with almost 200 miles of range (in Europe). The Chevy Bolt would be a bit slow with only 50 kW of charging, but it has liquid cooling to keep that rate up, and enough range to make it to the next Electrify America station in most cases. Nobody but Nissan thinks it’s necessary to offer these kinds of perks anymore.
Before the #Rapidgate update, I had a hell of a time driving my Nissan LEAF on trips. Sure, it can be done, but the average person who isn’t some sort of lunatic like me just wouldn’t put up with it.
On one 1200-mile trip, my wife was ready to kill me. We had frequent heat problems, and spent a lot of time at Level 2 charging stations. We had to throw two extra hotel night stays in just to be sure we wouldn’t get stranded, and even spent one night sleeping in the car at an RV park. The car went anywhere we wanted, but it was a miserable experience that I wouldn’t wish on people who hate me.
After the #Rapidgate software patch, things improved slightly, but it still wasn’t good for a 240-mile road trip. I took it on the interstate during Electrify America’s free charging for Earth Day. With ideal availability of rapid charging stations, slightly reduced speeds, and even some rest time before plugging in, it still overheated after the first charge and gave us very poor charging rates for the rest of the trip. Had we gone east on I-10 instead of west, we wouldn’t have made it to the next charging station past El Paso.
In other words, even with the best charging availability, the car just can’t do road trips in any timeframe that the average person would tolerate. I have the 40 kWh version, but even with 60 kWh, it will just take a little longer to overheat it.
In other words, offering free rental cars isn’t there to do people an extra favor. It’s there to make up for a deficiency in the vehicle that liquid cooling could have avoided entirely.
Nissan Needs To Learn From Tesla & Volkswagen Instead Of Playing These Games
The first thing Nissan needs to do is stop selling EVs without liquid battery cooling. You’d think after getting burned early in the LEAF program (they replaced a bunch of degraded batteries), and then having problems with the 30 kWh version of the car showing premature degradation, that they’d figure out that stubbornly keeping away from active cooling was a bad idea. Then, Nissan took a reputational hit with #Rapidgate with the first year of second-gen LEAF, and its software update didn’t really solve the problem.
At some point you have to stop making the same mistake over and over, learn the lesson, and move on.
Sure, the upcoming Ariya will feature liquid cooling, and shouldn’t have these problems, but they’re still selling the LEAF, and haven’t done anything to improve it for future owners. Current and past owners are likewise stuck with a car that could have easily been so much better with an extra $200-300 in parts. It’s insane that they’ve been selling a car with a glaring issue for 10 years now.
The cooling issue aside, other shortcoming with the upcoming Ariya shows that it just doesn’t want to be a leader in the EV field. The base offering will be front-wheel drive and only comes with a 63 kWh battery, which basically puts it in the same class as a 2017 Chevy Bolt, but with slightly faster charging (130 kW). They’re phoning it in, in other words.
Contrast this with Volkswagen’s ID.4. It’s rear-wheel drive, has a larger battery, and it’s even at dealers in small towns, today. Sure, the ID.4 still doesn’t have a great charging rate, but it’s head-and-shoulders above what Nissan is going to sell people, because it has better range.
And really, there’s just no reason to sell an EV with front-wheel drive. It’s so bleedingly easy to put the drive unit in the back and give the vehicle’s owner a much better driving experience. The old excuse for cheaping out and going with a transaxle in an ICE car was that the engine was over the wheels, but that doesn’t apply for an EV unless you’re making something that’s truly awful.
Volkswagen, Ford, and everyone else with half a brain is following what Tesla did, and they’re making decent vehicles. The Ford Mustang Mach-E is rear-drive (or all-drive), has great capacity, great characteristics for most drivers, and they’re following up with the F-150 Lightning. Volkswagen Group is doing the ID.3, ID.4, and the Porsche Taycan (among several others), built on dedicated EV platforms, and rear-drive by default.
Even Kia and Hyundai‘s latest EVs are going to be doing things the right way (big battery, rear-drive). They’ve gone from being a joke among car enthusiasts in the 90s and 00s to being serious players doing it right today. Nissan has no excuse.
Whoever is making these decisions at Nissan needs to stop stubbornly doing things the stupid way, and start doing what everyone else knows works well.