Nissan (NSANY.PK) has already dropped the price on its Leaf electric car, but to add some further perks to lure buyers into signing onboard, it’s throwing free charges into the mix, too. Beginning this summer (July 1), Nissan will issue EZ-Charge cards to people who buy or lease new Leafs in ten different markets across the U.S., including San Francisco, Houston, and Washington, Bloomberg reported.
The offer allows buyers and lessees to charge for free for two years, and fifteen more U.S. cities will be added to the promotion in 2015, Nissan said. “Public charging is an important way to provide added range confidence to EV buyers and persuade more shoppers to join the more than 110,000 LEAF drivers around the world,” Fred Diaz, Nissan’s senior vice president for U.S. sales, told Bloomberg on Thursday.
The program uses NRG Energy’s (NYSE:NRG) eVgo charge network, as well as ChargePoint, CarCharging’s Blink and AeroVironment networks public chargers, Bloomberg said. It’s a move to help establish some confidence in electric vehicles, which have had trouble catching on due to concerns about range and public charging difficulties. Nissan made no indication as to how much it was spending on the initiative.
The Leaf, which retails for about $27,000, has an 84 mile-range. In America, where personal mobility is highly valued, range problems have been a tough sell, especially for those living outside of urban areas. Even electric cars’ promise of no oil changes, tune-ups, or other gasoline-associated maintenances hasn’t helped them catch on more rapidly.
Free charging is a part of the strategy employed by Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA), which has been building out its own proprietary network of chargers to ensure that its customers don’t have to pay to charge while on the road. As Nissan and others continue to deliver record numbers of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, the companies are looking to keep the momentum going and break down all barriers to ownership possible.
The Leaf sold 22,610 vehicles last year, double what the car sold in the year prior. Even this recent first quarter, sales were 46 percent above last year’s levels, at 5,184 vehicles.
“We’re basically seeing, month on month, that we’ve got traction now. It’s not niche anymore,” Andy Palmer, Nissan’s chief planning officer, told Bloomberg. “I would expect without a doubt more records,” he said, though he declined to set U.S. or global volume targets.
As gas prices show little sign of coming down, free power might be a powerful incentive for those looking at the Leaf, but are still unsure. The EV market has had a sort of snowball effect, and its momentum might only grow as people become more receptive to the industry and the costs associated with it deflate.