Sunday, February 11, 2018

How Much Money Do You Save Driving a Nissan Leaf?


Admittedly, practicality is the least interesting reason to buy a car. There’s no giddiness in choosing that diesel-fed SUV over that swoopy turbocharged sportscar just because it saves you more gas. And yet, that’s the mindset that a vast majority of buyers will find themselves in come their next car purchase. Forget about saving the environment or feeding your enthusiast soul for that matter, it’s all about which one gives you more savings; which one extends your peso so that you can feed your family and meet the monthly financing dues of your new car at the same time. This is the sort of market the Nissan Leaf finds itself in.

While the second-generation Leaf touts itself to be Nissan’s leader in intelligent mobility, most people will probably consider getting one if it’s going to save them some money. But let’s get to that later.

Let’s consider the facts: Southeast Asia is now the fifth largest car market in the world with over 3 million sold vehicles sold in the region annually. With a GDP per capita close approaching China’s, that growth is expected to continue. Combine that with a high rate of urbanization, traffic congestion and air pollution are worsening.

Realizing the need to curtail air pollution in its cities, China has stepped up and has become a global leader in EVs, selling some 600,000 of them last year alone. Markets such as Indonesia, which sells 1.2 million vehicles per year, is following suit. Their government has set a target that by 2025, 25 percent of vehicles sold there would be electrified; and by 2040, a full ban on internal combustion engines altogether.


A Nissan-commissioned study done by Frost & Sullivan, a global consulting company, has revealed that there’s now an increased willingness across the region to consider EVs as their next vehicle purchase. The leader in the survey is the Philippines, where 46 percent of respondents say they’re open to buy an EV as their next car. Drilling down the study further, the mean age of these would-be EV buyer is 37 years old (compared to 52 years old for ICE buyers) and belonging to a small household of 4 people.

The same study reveals that would-be EV buyers belong to one of three market groups: Trendy Enthusiast (39 percent), Environmentalist (34 percent), and Basic Utility Driver (27 percent). The first two revolve around markets such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand while the last one, Basic Utility Driver is something shared across all the 6 markets surveyed, including the Philippines.

That brings us back to the subject to the second-generation Leaf. Pushing to democratize EV technology, Nissan just announced that they are going to sell the Leaf in 7 more countries. And while the Philippines isn’t included in the initial list, the Japanese carmaker promises to accelerate their plans given the Frost & Sullivan results.

If and when Nissan does bring in the Leaf (likely around mid-2019), just what sort of ownership experience can you expect?

Well, the “Basic Utility Driver” will be happy to know that the Leaf has the lowest ownership cost of any new EV, according to the US-based Kelley Blue Book, a California-based vehicle valuation and automotive research company. Factoring in the vehicle purchase price, expected depreciation, fuel cost, finance charges, insurance, maintenance costs, and repair costs, the Nissan Leaf costs about USD 38,258 (P 1,980,000) to run for 5 years (in comparison, the lowest cost compact car is the Toyota Corolla at USD 30,856 while the lowest cost compact crossover is the Subaru XV at USD 34,724).

Of course, these figures may not be relevant to the Philippine market where the cost of electricity is about 30 percent higher than in the US. The rate here is actually one of the most expensive in the region, matching that of Singapore at P 8.72 per kWh. With that, it would be interesting to compute how much a Nissan Leaf will save you in the long run.


Considering a 16-hour charge time on a regular 220-volt outlet (Nissan does offer an infrastructure-dependent CHAdeMO fast charger), the Leaf costs just P 460.42 to fill up, drawing 3.3 kW of power. This is equivalent to two 2-horsepower air conditioners working simultaneously. In comparison, a typical diesel car would cost 3.5 times as more (P 1,640.00); a gasoline would even be costlier at 4.5 times more or P 2,100.00 at today’s pump prices.

Factoring in the Leaf’s lower maintenance costs (Nissan says it’s about 80 percent less compared to a traditional internal combustion car), the total cost per kilometer comes out to just P 2.04. This is about half that of a diesel-powered car (P 4.15) and 60 percent less than that of a gasoline-powered car (P 6.58).

In the course of a year, a Leaf owner could potentially save P 90,933.39 compared to the most expensive option, the gasoline-powered car. By comparison, a diesel-fed car owner saves P 48,589.74 per year compared once more to the gasoline-powered option. Of course, this is if all factors remain steady such as electricity and pump prices. It’s worth noting that pump prices are already expected to increase in 2019 and 2020 because of TRAIN (as much as P 6 for diesel and P 10 for gasoline, which should amount to even more savings when opting for an EV.

Now comes the most difficult part: just how much should Nissan price its Leaf for it to make economic sense to the “Basic Utility Driver”? Despite the carmaker’s refusal to give even a ballpark figure for the Leaf, we can make some assumptions based on its pricing in the US market.

Looking at the sampling of 4 other vehicles, namely the Sentra (Sylphy), Altima, Rogue (X-TRAIL), and GT-R, Nissan Philippines sells their products at a 15 percent premium (average) compared to their US counterparts with similar specifications.  Applying that formula to the Leaf, expect the mid-range SV model to be priced around P 1,930,000 while the top-range SL to be at P 2,150,000.

Despite the large annual savings of driving the Leaf, the utility payback of the Nissan EV is still quite long at 9.14 years (11.56 years for the SL). Given the Leaf’s generous 8-year battery warranty, the only way for would-be owners to feel protected in buying something with relatively new technology is for Nissan to price it within an 8-year payback period. Therefore, a viable price for the Leaf should be at around P 1,830,000.

That’s still quite a way off compared to a traditional diesel or gasoline compact sedan which could be priced at around P 1,100,000. Of course, if the comparison is made versus a top-of-the-line P 1,500,000 compact sedan, the payback period could even be shorter—as little as four years. The computation here doesn’t even take into account the Leaf’s ability for bi-directional charging which means it can feed power back to the electrical grid, resulting in energy credits. This could speed up the payback period even more.

Still, Nissan understands this problem all too well. Kazuhiro Doi, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance Global Director for Research says that EVs are still not affordable enough. Although pricing is expected to go down 10 percent in the next 10 years thanks to among other things, the leveraging of resources across the entire alliance, Doi-san says that they are looking at new technologies to further reduce the cost of batteries and speed up the charging time. In the meantime, Doi-san says that EV ownership involves the change of habits; good ones that promotes more economical driving habits that mean a cleaner environment and more importantly, more money in the bank for owners.

Find out how well the 2018 Nissan Leaf drives by reading our story here.

5 comments:

  1. very interesting comparison. But Im also interested to compare data, useful for those considering to purchase a hybrid (prius) car

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In terms of maintenance cost, it will cost the same as a typical gasoline-engined car, P 0.75 per kilometer.

      Assuming though you get 19 km/L in the city, that adds up to a cost per km of P 2.76.

      Add that together and you have P 3.51 per kilometer. That's still higher than an EV, but now lower than a diesel-powered car.

      For you to match an EV's running cost, the hybrid should do 41 km/L.

      Delete
  2. currently, the only "affordable" long-range EVs would be the LEAF and the Chevy Bolt, not sure about the latter ever going to market here though.

    for within-NCR city driving though, perhaps the i-miev could be and better - and cheaper - sell. then again, mitsubishi phils has yet to answer that one too.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm skeptical about how those quoted ranges/capacities will play out in Metro Manila traffic. Hours stuck in the deadlock, AC and all accessories on should make short work of all the juice.

    The energy density per drop of fossil fuel still can't be matched by the latest battery tech we have.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nissan quotes 400 kilometers under the JC08 cycle. For this comparison, we pegged the range at 250 kilometers per charge.

      Delete

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