Nissan Chair Ghosn: 188 miles is enough for electric cars; now prices must be cut

2018 Nissan Leaf with EVgo fast charger at NJ Turnpike Molly Pitcher travel plaza, Feb 2018

2018 Nissan Leaf with EVgo fast charger at NJ Turnpike Molly Pitcher travel plaza, Feb 2018

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At about 188miles, the range of today’s electric cars is enough. It’s the price that needs to come down.

So says Carlos Ghosn, an electric-car pioneer among CEOs of mainstream automakers. Ghosn was speaking at a Nissan event in Hong Kong, according to a report in Charged EVs.

The speech revealed key marketing insights from one of the world’s bestselling makers of electric cars.

 READ THIS: Electric-car range anxiety exists, but it’s overblown, says MIT study [2016]

“We have seen that consumers do not talk anymore about range or autonomy as long as you guarantee more than 300 kilometers,” Ghosn said. (300 km is about 188 miles.) “You could not have guessed this through studies. You had to have 500,000 [electric] cars on the ground to understand that consumers do not put autonomy on top of their concerns any more when you cross 300 km.”

The debate over how much range is enough has raged among electric car advocates since before the first commercially available cars rolled out in late 2011. Since then, most electric models have had ranges of about 80 miles, which will cover the daily driving of about 90 percent of the public, according to census and Labor department studies. Yet many carbuyers rejected those electrics because they worried they wouldn’t have enough of a buffer at the end of the day or that they wouldn’t have enough extra miles to make occasional unexpected but crucial side trips, such as to pick up the kids at daycare when a spouse is called away unexpectedly, or to visit the emergency room after a sports injury.

Ghosn says buyers no longer worry about those things if their car can go 300 km on a charge. It’s worth mentioning that 300 kilometers is far less than the range of most conventional cars. 

Today several electric cars can go farther than 300 kilometers on a charge, most notably the Nissan Leaf’s key competitor, the Chevrolet Bolt, with its 238 miles of electric range. Every model Tesla sells has a range of at least 200 miles. A new version of the Leaf is expected to go on sale later this year with a 225-mile battery. And later this year Hyundai has announced it will sell the new Kona Electric with a 236 mile range, and a new version of the Ioniq Electric is expected to get a battery with about 200 miles of range.

Engineers have been making rapid improvements in battery technology, packing more energy into batteries the same size as those in original electric cars. And they’ve done so without raising prices commensurately.

CHECK OUT: Nissan Leaf Pro-Pilot Assist and range-anxiety review

Ghosn says now the cars are still too expensive, many depending on government purchase subsidies to attract buyers. The electric cars we’re familiar with in the U.S. are too expensive for places like China, Ghosn says. The electric cars that have become popular in China are less costly models.

All this could have big implications for the electric-car market worldwide. As Nissan’s costs for batteries come down, instead of holding prices flat as they jam more capacity into batteries, Nissan, and presumably its competitors, may build cars with smaller batteries to reduce prices. That’s when electric cars could start to gain popularity among mainstream buyers.

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