Taking a cue from Tesla Motors, which provides the owners of its cars a network of free charging stations nationwide, Nissan is launching a similar program for drivers of its Leaf electric vehicle.
Starting in August, Los Angeles area Leaf buyers will get a card that pays for two years of no-cost public charging at hundreds of stations. The car includes access to fast chargers that can recharge a Leaf battery to 80% power in about 30 minutes.
"Los Angeles has long been one of the world's top markets for electric car sales," said Brendan Jones, director of Nissan electric vehicle sales and infrastructure. "Adding free access to public fast charging in the L.A. market gives us a competitive edge over other vehicles, regardless of their fuel source."
Nissan is also working to make the car, which starts at $29,860, more affordable to a greater range of customers. According to the California Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, 73% of Leaf buyers in California have a household income of $100,000 or more.
Buyers of the Leaf and other electric vehicles in California are eligible for a $2,500 rebate from the Air Resources Board as well as solo driver access to carpool lanes.
"While electric vehicle sales have been growing steadily, consumers are not yet fully convinced that they represent the future of the auto industry, at least not at current prices," said Alec Gutierrez, an analyst at car information company Kelley Blue Book.
The limited range of most electric vehicles – less than 100 miles per charge – also limits consumer interest, Gutierrez said.
Moreover, many subcompact cars can reach fuel economy of 40 miles per gallon in highway driving and that makes electric vehicles less competitive, he said.
"Those that can live within the confines of a 100 mile-per-day range may be enticed to take a hard look at Nissan's offer to cover free charging for two years," Gutierrez said. "This may not be enough to sway consumers en masse, but it may be enough to give Nissan enough of an edge to stay ahead of the EV pack."
Leaf buyers will receive an EZ-ChargeSM card that is good at ChargePoint, Blink, CarCharging, AeroVironment and NRG eVgo charging stations. People who purchased their vehicles this month will also get the charge card.
Nissan offers similar programs in San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, Seattle, Nashville, Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C. It will expand it to an additional 14 markets next year.