Watch your back Nissan. The Leaf is about to get some competition.

, research and deputy director, Clean Vehicles | November 14, 2011, 11:40 am EDT
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I’m heading to the LA Auto Show next week and according to the show’s website, there will be at least seven battery-electric vehicles on display.  In looking over the list of all-electric vehicles (EVs), one thing became clear right away:

The Nissan Leaf is about to get some competition.

So far, Nissan’s Leaf has been all alone in the 5-passenger EV category. But that’s not going to hold true for much longer. At least two EVs at the show, both of which will be available to consumers in 2012, will be in direct competition with the Leaf, offering similar or greater range and seating capacity.  Here’s a quick look.

Ford Focus Electric

Photo: MSVG

The Ford Focus Electric, a 5-seater like the Leaf, looks like it will have similar range to the Leaf though official EPA numbers haven’t been released.  One major difference is the price. Ford just announced the Focus will be priced at $39,200, before incentives, compared to the Leaf at $35,200. Ford might be thinking that consumers will pay more for the Focus because it is equipped with a higher powered charger, meaning recharge times may be half that of the Leaf, with a full charge in 3 to 4 hours as opposed to about 7 hours for the Leaf with 240-volt charging. I’m curious to see what other features Ford will be offering to move EV buyers in their direction.

CODA Sedan

Photo: Tom Raftery

The big difference with the CODA sedan, besides CODA not being one of the major automakers, is the battery pack. CODA’s sedan will also be a five passenger vehicle, but its pre-incentive price of $44,900 in part reflects the bigger battery pack, which is 40 percent larger than that of the Leaf.

So the CODA sedan is expected to deliver significantly longer range on a single charge than the Leaf and will test EV buyer’s willingness to pay for those extra miles. Its higher powered charging similar to the Focus will help keep charging times lower as well when using 240-volts.

One thing is for sure, 2012 is shaping up to be a good year for consumers looking for an all-electric car, with a range of options expected. And the more EV choices for consumers, the better for the entire EV market.

It will be interesting to see how this early market competition plays out. How will automakers try to distinguish their EV offerings from their competition? What will be the most compelling selling points to consumers? Cost? Range? Recharging times?

Most importantly, will automakers continue to make the investments needed to move EVs into the mainstream?

The California Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program, which has pushed automakers to invest in advanced, low-emission vehicle technologies over the past 20 years, is about to be revamped in the coming months. A strong ZEV program would help ensure automakers continue to deliver these cars to consumers.

But more on ZEV later. In the meantime, I look forward checking out these and the other EVs at the show to see what’s in store in 2012 and beyond.

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  • Chris Busch

    Dan and Don. Great work! I enjoyed this, readable yet technically sophisticated. What i would expect from your work of course.

  • Kris

    CODA…it doesn’t really matter what is inside of that car if it represents in such a bad way outside..they need to understand how important the design is..why would anybody spend 40,000 dollars to be seen in such a hideous & super cheap Chinese knock-out looking car..hire some talents and design your car to show the technology in one good package.

  • Jim Baker

    For your question of inducements, Ford is making everything standard on the Focus EV, except leather seating. They also have two paint colors which have premium costs. Otherwise, everything is in the $39,995.

  • Mark Raines

    Plug-in electric cars are the ultimate tres chic NIMBY accessory — reducing exhaust gas pollution in one’s own neighborhood only to transfer coal emissions, nuclear waste, etc to someone else’s neighborhood. Don’t for a moment adopt the idea that electric cars are pollution-free or that they cost nothing to recharge or that they don’t wear out or that they run on magic — only “scientists” at UCS believe any of that sales hustle!

    • Mark, thanks for your comment. You are correct in pointing out that electric vehicles are not emissions free. One has to factor in the emissions from generating electricity to power these vehicles (see our FAQ on electric drive vehicles). Charging an EV on today’s electric grid in the US produces less global warming emissions than the average vehicle and outperforms the most efficient hybrid gasoline vehicles in regions with the cleanest electricity. Cleaning up our electricity grid is definitely key to delivering on the full potential of electric vehicles for global warming emissions and toxic air pollution. The future and promise of electric vehicles are inherently tied to a clean energy future, a future which UCS strongly supports.