All-electric cars have not grabbed hold of the mainstream market as much as some early entrants were hoping. To try to tweak the market, Nissan (NASDAQ: NSANY) announced it is dropping the price of its entry model, the Leaf S, by more than $6,000, or 18 percent.
The news from the Detroit Auto Show also boasted of greater range and faster charging time for the Leaf. Nissan attributed the lower price to making the car in Tennessee, rather than Japan, where the yen-dollar exchange rate affects the cost.
With state and federal tax incentives, the Leaf could be less than $19,000 for some consumers, such as California residents. It is also available on lease.
The carmaker did not specify the advances on driving range, but all of the models are available with a 6.6-kilowatt charger, which will allow for a significant improvement over the standard 3.6-kilowatt onboard charger that comes standard on the S model.
Other electric options at this year’s show include Via Motors' electric trucks and the 2014 Cadillac ELR, an extended-range electric vehicle based on the Chevy Volt’s powertrain. The vehicle has a 35-mile range on its battery before switching over to the 1.4-liter gas engine. Tesla [NSDQ:TSLA] also unveiled its new Model X crossover, which Green Car Reports said is expected to go into production in late 2013.
Diesel continues to gain interest from American manufacturers too. Jeep unveiled its 2014 Grand Cherokee with a diesel engine, which has already been available in Europe. BMW (XETRA: BMW) is also expanding its diesel options in the U.S.
News from around the Detroit Auto Show makes it clear that while fuel economy is front and center, it’s not all about electric or even hybrids.
The challenge for all-electric vehicles will not be higher fuel economy internal combustion engines, but efficient diesel offerings and hybrids. Although sales of electric vehicles aren’t as strong as carmakers would like, they are increasing.
In the past three years, the average miles per gallon has increased by three, rising to 23.8 mpg in 2012. The Maxim Group reported that EV sales hit consecutive records as of November 2012, with 7,600 EVs sold in the U.S. in that month alone. The vehicles still represent less than 1 percent of U.S. auto sales, however.
A study from the early days of the Leaf and Volt found that sticker shock was the major barrier for car buyers when it came to electric vehicles. With a nearly 20 percent reduction in the price of the Leaf and far more options on the market, the next few years could determine just how much interest there is in electric powertrains in the U.S.