Nissan's LEAF set to take on Tesla in popularising electric cars.

Updated / Friday, 2 Mar 2018 07:00

Nissan's new LEAF puts the company way ahead of Tesla and others in selling mass-market electric cars in Europe.

By Donal Byrne

With an extended driving range and high levels of equipment as standard, Nissan's new Leaf has entered the market ahead of Tesla's mass-production model. Smaller than expected production numbers for the Tesla now give the LEAF a real head start.

The LEAF comes to Ireland next month and Nissan has just confirmed prices and equipment levels. Most noteworthty, however, is the range being promised for the all-electric car - 378 kilometres in real world conditions. There is also a 38 per cent increase in power, which is now 150 horse power.

The entry level XE version comes in at €26,290. Standard features include lane departure warning, intelligent emergency braking with pedestrian recognition, intelligent lane intervention, cross traffic alert and automatic headlight high-beams. The base model also has a remote key function and start push button. 

The leaf features only one driving pedal.

The car also has the new e-Pedal system, which means there is only one main pedal for controlling speed and braking. Press it and you accelerate. Take your foot off and the car will begin to brake with a controlled stop. It sounds a little challenging but it's actually very clever and easy to get used to.  There is an emergency brake fitted, should the need arise.

The first batch of a special launch edition car (€29,590) is sold out. Those who did get in with an early order were also given the higher grade 7" screen and a telematics system that includes active charging for the battery, an eco-route planner and an alert system for information on nearby charging points. They also got the ProPilot system that uses a radar for motorway driving to control acceleration and braking and detects vehicles ahead.

More expensive versions of the car that feature extras such as leather seats, alloy wheels, automatic headlights and a Bose sound system are also available up to a price of €32,600.

All prices include a Government electric vehicle grant.

As a mass-market electric vehicle the new Nissan certainly has a head start, particularly if the new extended range on the battery stands up in all-year conditions. Reuters reports that Tesla has said it would likely build about 2,500 Model 3s per week by the end of the first quarter of this year - half the number it had earlier promised. The company now expects to reach its goal of 5,000 vehicles per week by the end of the second quarter.

Tesla has fallen back on its production and delivery of the Model 3, which sells in the US for $35,000.

"With absolute Model 3 sales tracking behind expectations and Model 3 gross margin improvement likely to be pushed out until production reaches greater scale, the expected cash tailwind from Model 3 will take longer to manifest itself than was anticipated,"one analyst noted.

The Model 3 has generated huge demand in the United States, where it is selling at $35,000. but production has fallen behind consistently. There is no estimated price for the Tesla in Europe, but it is likely NIssan will have a significant advantage, both in terms of price and its current availability on every European market.