Transport Theory

Top-selling EV Nissan Leaf: less than 10,000 units sold in U.S.

Top-selling EV Nissan Leaf: less than 10,000 units sold in U.S.

Posting in Energy

The Nissan Leaf is the world's best-selling EV, and yet less than 22,000 have been sold globally. What does that mean for the electric vehicle market?

Nissan's has announced its sales results for its all-electric Nissan Leaf. The good news? The Leaf is the world's best-selling electric car. The bad? Globally, the car has sold less than 22,000 units.

Since its U.S. debut in December 2010, Nissan has sold 9,674 units of the Leaf. In December 2011, less than 1,000 units were sold.

And yet, the Leaf is the world's best-selling electric car.

What's going on here? For all the hype surrounding EVs as a zero-emissions alternative, particularly for people whose daily commute does not exceed the EPA's official range of 73 miles, the Leaf is not a bad choice, if you can afford its hefty price tag (its suggested retail price is $35,200).

So why have sales been so low? To be sure, early adoption carries risks. Most parts of the country still lack EV charging infrastructure - though that is changing. (Thanks to some logistical imbalances, Tennessee can boast 500 charging stations for its 270 registered electric vehicles.)

But unfortunately, the Leaf's sales numbers seem to bear out the findings of a recent survey by Deloitte, which highlighted the disparity between consumer expectations for EVs and the kinds of cars currently on the market. While people around the world said they would be interested in buying an EV, their expectations for range, charging time, and price were significantly higher than the EVs currently on the market. Only two to four percent of the population in any of the countries surveyed would find that today's EV offerings met their expectations.

Over time, people's expectations may become more realistic as more EVs hit the market. But, for all the hype surrounding electric vehicles, it may take a while before we have a critical mass of them on our streets.

Photo: Nissan

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Channtal Fleischfresser

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Channtal Fleischfresser has worked for The Economist, WNET/Channel 13, Al Jazeera English, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure