Even as Nissan is investing to advance EV technology, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn believes that the obstacle to increasing sales of the electric Leaf is the need for a bigger public battery-charging network in the U.S. Despite these challenges, Ghosn is confident that Leaf sales in the U.S. can reach 50,000 units a year, a marked increase from the 30,000 units sold last year.
Ghosn said that the automaker is working toward the initial phase of factory capacity for battery modules, built at its Smyrna, Tenn., assembly plant. At the New York auto show, Ghosn was asked if Leaf sales will be able to support Nissan's U.S. investment in EV battery manufacturing.
He replied that a sales volume of 50,000 EVs in North America is well within its capacity. However, he is adamant that there should be additional investment in EV-charging facilities from governments and public-private initiatives.
Ghosn said that the electric car won’t have a “very strong development” if the charging infrastructure isn’t there. He believes that those countries that will have this infrastructure will experience a “very big burst” of vehicles that have zero emissions.
He pointed out that EV sales face a couple of time-consuming hurdles. First, governments have to first reach a decision to invest in infrastructure. Secondly, the infrastructure has to be built. Ghosn explained that we all have to be patient as the government still has to make the decisions and then these will still have to be executed in the states, the communities, and the cities.
In the first three months of 2015, Nissan was able to sell 4,085 Leafs – a 21% decrease from the year-earlier quarter. Nissan’s goal of selling 50,000 units annually would mean the tripling of present sales levels.
Ghosn ruled out the idea that EVs need to have a far improved range before the buying public embraces them. The EPA-rated battery range of the 2015 Leaf is 84 miles. Nissan has made statements to imply that the next-generation Leaf will offer a much wider battery range.
However, Ghosn is insisting that consumers are staying away because of the range. He said that he never cared about the range the first time he bought a car since there was a gasoline station every 3 to 4 miles.
He asserted that driving 300 miles won’t be an issue if there’s a charging infrastructure. The range can help convince buyers but it is not the solution.