Nissan introduced the new UK-market LEAF this week, and the latest iteration of the company's all-electric vehicle gets a variety of updates and improvements. Not only does its range increase by 15 miles (24 km), but it offers buyers the option of leasing, rather than buying, the battery.
Range anxiety is probably the most common reason that makes consumers think twice about even considering an electric vehicle purchase, but battery life and replacement is another worry. The large, powerful battery packs used in EVs won't last forever, and they can't just be replaced at Wal-Mart. Though Nissan has stressed that drivers should be able to replace modules without replacing the entire battery, the specific costs remain a mystery to consumers, with estimates ranging anywhere from three to five figures. That's a pretty big potential expense hanging over your head.
By offering a battery lease option, Nissan is taking the question mark out of the equation. Models with the leased battery are known as "Flex" models, and the base Visia trim level starts at £15,990 (that's about US$24,500 at publishing), after receipt of the available £5,000 ($7,670) plug-in grant. That price is £5,000 below the price of the car with battery, and the battery lease starts at £70 ($107) per month (£840/$1,290 per year). Nissan offers several different battery lease options with different annual mileage caps, contract lengths and prices.
Those that choose to buy the car, battery and all, will also enjoy enhanced protection. Nissan has added capacity loss coverage to its 5-year warranty against defective materials and workmanship. A battery that falls below 9 out of 12 bars in the first five years or 60,000 miles will be eligible for repair or replacement under the new warranty.
The new LEAF enjoys more than 100 improvements over the outgoing model, most notable of which is an increase in range from 109 miles (175 km) to 124 miles (200 km). Improvements to the powertrain, aerodynamics, regenerative braking and heating system enable the mileage increase. The battery also offers 4-hour charging from a 320-amp source with optional 6.6 kW charger. Other updates include increased cargo space, new interior trim and the addition of Nissan's Around View Monitor parking assist system.
The LEAF will be offered in three separate packages: the aforementioned Visia, the £23,490 ($36,000) Acenta (£18,490/$28,400 with battery lease option), and the £25,490 ($39,000) Tekna (£20,490/$31,400 with battery lease). All prices are after the £5,000 plug-in grant.
The Sunderland, U.K. plant where the British LEAF is built is responsible for building LEAF models for all of Europe. Other European markets will enjoy the 2013 LEAF model improvements and possibly the battery leasing options.