DETROIT -- Nissan Motor Co. is staying out of the battery range arms race.
The automaker introduced its second-generation Nissan Leaf electric vehicle with a range of 150 miles -- a 40 percent increase from its predecessor but still a far cry from competing EVs. But Nissan sees the relatively lower range as hitting a sweet spot among existing Leaf customers.
"We took something that was hitting 90 percent of the usage scenes and we made it 40 percent better," said Chris Reed, Nissan's vice president of component engineering, at a meeting with reporters before the Technology in Motion conference Wednesday here.
Battery technology and vehicle cost are directly related, Reed said, and to keep the Leaf at its price point -- the second generation starts at $30,875, including shipping but before a $7,500 federal tax credit, $690 less than the entry price for the previous model -- range needed to remain relatively low. However, he added, the 150-mile range satisfies most of the needs of current Leaf customers surveyed by the automaker.
"For our main customer, who wants that value relationship, ... it hits that great balance of getting more range, getting more features, getting the right package and getting a mainstream car," he said.
General Motors started selling its EV offering, the Chevrolet Bolt, in December. With a starting price of $37,495, including shipping but before the $7,500 federal tax credit, the electric hatchback boasts an EPA range of 238 miles per charge. Tesla Inc. launched its entrant into the mass market in July, the Model 3, priced at $35,000 before the federal tax credit and with a starting range of 220 miles.
Reed said Nissan is continuing to work on increasing range, and will introduce a performance version of the Leaf early next year with a range of more than 200 miles. The new Leaf also comes standard with Nissan's e-Pedal, which turns the accelerator pedal into a combined accelerator-brake, and ProPilot Assist, its single-lane semiautonomous driving system, as an available feature. Nissan projects this technology in addition to the extended range will at least double global Leaf sales.
"We're on our second generation. The others are on their first," Reed said. "We just have to balance value with range."