Falling Leaf: Consumers not buying

Nissan abandons its sales goals as consumers refuse to embrace electric vehicles

  • Nissan Leaf rear

You paid for it, but consumers still aren’t buying.

The Detroit News reports that Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn admitted on Mexican television that Nissan cannot make its 2012 sales goal of 20,000 vehicles.  So far Nissan has sold only 6,791 in 2012.  In 2011 they sold 9,679 leafs.

The Leaf, which is an all electric car, has an advertised range of just 100 miles before a lengthy recharge.  The short range makes it unattractive for any buyer seeking a vehicle for more than just a short local commute or brief errands.

In Arizona, Leaf owners found their cars failed to meet the short 100 mile mark, likely due in part to hot weather.  Arizona Leaf owners have returned their vehicles to Nissan for a full refund pursuant to Arizona’s lemon law.  The Christian Science Monitor interviewed a Leaf owner who was able to get just 42 miles per charge which was not enough to meet his 45 mile daily commute.

After just 15 months of ownership, three of the capacity bars on his Leaf’s dashboard had disappeared, representing a 27.5 percent loss in battery capacity.

Unable to drive his car to work, Yarosh turned his car in, and was hit by almost $700 in fees. A week later, Nissan gave him a full refund.

“I think they’re trying to get me to shut up to be honest, to keep my mouth shut,” he said.

Despite lavish government subsidies, consumers remain reluctant to adopt electric vehicles.  They will be unlikely to change their minds so long as short range and reluctance to take ownership of expensive battery banks, which begin deteriorating immediately, remain factors.

The electric car and battery industries received billions in subsidies from President Obama’s stimulus package including a $1.4 billion loan to Nissan for a battery plant.  In addition, electric car buyers receive a $7,500 tax credit, which (as opposed to a tax deduction) is as good as cash.

Electric cars tend to be the choice of people trying to make an environmental statement rather than those seeking a good deal on transportation.  However, even those who seek to reduce their emissions of CO2 can find cause for disappointment.  The vast majority of the electricity used to recharge Leaf’s, Volts and the rest is generated by traditional means, much of it by burning coal.

The batteries which power electric cars are very expensive although this is partially obscured by reductions from government subsidies.  When the battery banks fail they can leave electric vehicle owners with a replacement cost many cannot afford to bear.

Merely parking an electric vehicle for a prolonged period without charge can cause the batteries to discharge completely due to ongoing parasitic loads from various systems.  Complete discharge can render the batteries irretrievably dead as  was discovered by owners of Tesla Motors roadsters whose vehicles became “bricks.”

When a Tesla battery does reach total discharge, it cannot be recovered and must be entirely replaced. Unlike a normal car battery, the best-case replacement cost of the Tesla battery is currently at least $32,000, not including labor and taxes that can add thousands more to the cost.

Short range, high cost, deteriorating batteries, coal fired electricity, potential bricks and a drain on the treasury — electric cars have much to overcome before consumers embrace them.

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About the Author: CFACT Ed