Nissan’s Electric Vehicle Sales Are Really Taking Off

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Making sales projections for brand new technology can be difficult, to say the least. Sometimes products catch on quickly and never look back. Other times they take awhile before becoming viral. Think about the iPhone and the iPad, for example.

So it’s no big surprise that the Renault/Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn was a bit over optimistic when he first proclaimed in 2012 that sales of their all-electric Leaf would hit 1.5 million in four years. Sales started out slower than expected, so he pushed back the deadline to 2020, a full four years later. Range anxiety and recharging time have generally been considered the car’s biggest hurdles. Now, as sales of the car are heating up, it looks as if he was being far too conservative.

Leaf sales continue to grow. In fact, as of February, they have set new records each month for the past twelve months. That’s not an industry-wide move, either. Chevy Volt sales have actually been falling off. Leaf is outselling Volt in the US so far this year. In fact, Leaf holds the #1 spot this year, follwed by the Tesla. Granted, the numbers are still small: 1425 Leafs vs. 1210 Volts in a month, but the trend is worth noting. Over 100,000 Nissan units have now been sold worldwide. Still, we are well short of President Obama’s prediction of one million electric vehicles on US roads by 2015.

Increasing pressure on carmakers to reduce fleet fuel consumption averages, thanks to new Federal emission standards, is helping. The clean car trend is beginning to spread around the world, too. Emerging markets in Asia and South America could become hot spots for electric vehicle sales.

This paper by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, describes standards alsready in place in the US, Canada, the EU, Japan, Korea, and Australia, and argues for the need for a unified international standard, which would make life far easier for manfacturers. Mexico, India, Indonesia, and Thailand are said to be in the process of developing standards that should soon be ready.

The EPA is expected to introduce new standards this week, aimed at getting smoking vehciles off the road.

Billy Hayes, Nissan’s Global VP of Electric Vehicle Sales told the Wall Street Journal that he is seeing “more and more governments get[ting] involved in EV discussions.”

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn recently signed an agreement to supply a fleet of battery-powered Leafs to the government of Bhutan. They are also looking at setting up a factory in China, which would be an entre to selling cars there.

That strategy has worked very well for Ford, who saw their China sales jump 67% this February. Ford is opening two new plants in Chongqing and is expanding their R&D facility in Nanjing. The Ford Focus is already China’s top-seling car. The company hopes to sell one million cars in China this year.

The opportunity in developing countries, where the vehicle fueling infrastructure is far from fully developed, is, of course, large. There is every chance that in some of these places, an electric vehicle infrastucture will take root before fossil fuels become widespread, much in the way that cell phones became dominant in places that never had land lines.

[Image credit: NissanEV: Flickr Creative Commons]