A number of transportation execs and electric car fans have proposed leasing batteries to customers as a way to reduce the price of an electric car.
But so far, consumers don't seem willing to go along with this plan.
Nissan said yesterday at the end of its national tour with the all-electric Leaf that it will sell the complete car to customers, batteries and all. “Based on the data we have, consumers prefer to buy the full car with batteries,” Carlos Tavares, chairman of Nissan Americas, told the New York Times. Until now, Nissan has said it will experiment and examine different ways to sell the car. In the past, it said that the company might sell the complete car, it might sell the car and lease the battery, and it might lease the whole thing. Nissan, in short, would go with whatever worked. But for now, what works is selling the whole thing. (Click this link for our test drive of the Leaf. The quick review: it's pretty fun to drive.)
The battery-leasing concept exists because of the onerous costs of batteries. Car batteries can account for as much as one-third of the cost of an all-electric car. In an economy car, a battery can cost $12,000. Prices are going down, but batteries still cost a lot -- and wear out relatively quickly. Leasing takes some of the risk out of the equation, because the car company can always take back the vehicle.
Why aren't customers going for it? Well, it is a conceptual leap. Imagine if you went to a car dealer today and they offered to sell you the car and lease the engine.
Battery leasing, however, isn't dead. Nissan Renault is working with Better Place in Israel and Denmark, and battery leasing will be tested in those countries. Better Place theorizes that consumers will want to subscribe to transportation services: pay a monthly fee and get a battery, electricity and more. If it works there, it might spread to other countries. The big question mark for this sort of business plan is ultimately a question of human behavior: will or can consumers adapt?
On another note, Nissan will start taking online reservations for the Leaf in April. Better get in line now; some 50,000 people have already signed up, according to Wired.