Published August 31, 2012
By Jeff Cobb
As shown here at Pebble Beach, the Infiniti LE Concept has already been introduced to the U.S. It has the body of an upscale luxury car and still has the heart of a Nissan Leaf.
Unless Nissan packs more batteries into the pending Infiniti LE Concept – or more likely reveals a superior chemistry it has waiting in the wings – its first luxury EV will be at a severe range disadvantage to Tesla’s Model S line.
Infiniti will show the all-electric luxury car to Europe for the first time at the Paris Auto Show next month, and presently the concept uses a humble Leaf’s powertrain to push the larger luxury vehicle with dimensions in line with a G sedan.
“It is too early to confirm exactly when and where it will go on sale, but we are heartened by recent moves to encourage electric cars, such as France raising the purchase incentive from €5000 to €7000 per car. It is fitting that the LE Concept should make its European debut in Paris,” said Infiniti executive Bernard Loire.
Also too early to confirm is how Infiniti expects to sell an upscale car with maybe 100-mile range – if not 70 miles in many ordinary driving scenarios – when the premium Model S can go from the 230s up to over 300 miles under conservative driving situations. Tesla’s lesser S models when they are launched later this year will come with at least a 40-kwh or 60-kwh battery, while the Infiniti LE has 24-kwh.
Nissan has not said how the LE will compete with Tesla, but it is setting the stage for Infiniti-level driving expectations that will emphasize its satisfying "performance" with luxury status while downplaying the fact that it’s an EV.
“A luxury car for a new generation of sustainable luxury buyers must not compromise on performance. Buyers want ‘green,’ but won’t settle for any aspect of the driving experience being less than that of their current luxury vehicles,” Loire said.
In 2009 reports had it that Nissan has aNickel Manganese Cobalt li-ion chemistry with maybe double the range capacity of the Leaf's manganese spinel chemistry that would see production by 2015. Nissan is also undergoing current issues with a “handful” of Leaf owners in hot states who are say they are suffering with premature battery degradation. Furthermore, Japanese media have reported improvements of around 25 percent possible for the 2013 Leaf.
While Infiniti showcases its car in premium venues do you really think it will go to market with a Leaf’s present capacity? It’s nearly certain it won’t and this is one more pressure on Nissan to up the ante for the LE – and it’s just a matter of time before we officially hear of improvements on its less-expensive EVs now and pending as well.
We have asked about these questions, and Nissan says it does not disclose such information, but the handwriting – while at present still illegible – is essentially written on the wall anyway.