Truth be told, I could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from the people of Nissan Philippines, Inc. (NPI) when the company finally announced the local availability of the brand’s globally renowned electric vehicle, the Leaf, last May 9.
This is arguably a watershed in the story of mobility here, as a fully electrified vehicle that’s already had a worldwide presence (and popularity) now makes an earnest entry into the market. It’s no exaggeration to say, therefore, that all eyes are on the Leaf and how it will be received by Filipinos – particularly in the present context of “pandemic mobility.” Let’s unpack some important considerations.
First things first: Are you willing to pay the price of admission? In this case, it’s P2.798 million – admittedly on the pricier side, particularly if you look at the vehicles available for this amount of money. For instance, you might feel better served by a midsize SUV, or even a luxury brand’s entry-level offering, compared to the Leaf.
On the other hand, is this actually the right question to ask? Comparatively prohibitive price notwithstanding, it’s hard to dispute that the Leaf truly represents the future and how getting from Point A to Point B will eventually look like. The road to electrification is not just real, but is quite realistically the only sustainable path left (okay, maybe along with biofuels and such).
Now that the Leaf has finally landed into our direct purview, let’s look at some details and real-world concerns that now have a more direct answer.
Of primary concern, of course, is range. We’ve all heard about “range anxiety”—that worst-case scenario for EV doubters. Imagine negotiating a lonely stretch of road at night, then your vehicle runs out of battery with nary a charging station in sight. Now to be fair, because of improvements in battery technology and such, today’s crop of EVs is a lot better than those which came before. Range and reliability have never been better.
NPI says the Nissan Leaf can muster up to 311 kilometers on a full charge (which takes 15 to 18 hours at home). Now consider the distance of your average daily commute and, well, I’m sure you see where I’m getting at.
Owing to this fact, NPI president and Managing Director Atsushi Najima commented during a recent virtual presser, “We don’t need so many EV stations in Metro Manila.” In response to a question from Wheels, he said that the company is definitely looking at partnering with third-party establishments such as malls and gas stations where charging facilities may be installed.
And because a long-enough trip will logically bring up that question about range, Najima submitted, “If they drive up north or down south, we might need more charging stations in areas like Baguio or Batangas.” In the past, the lack of a charging infrastructure, compounded by the aforementioned range anxiety, spelled a brutal dealbreaker.
But Filipinos are famous for being early adopters. In addition, a Frost & Sullivan study commissioned by Nissan showed that Pinoys are among the most open in the ASEAN region to having an electrified vehicle as their next car. And while there are perceived barriers such as the lack of charging infrastructure, these doubts have been trending down as an increasing number people are beginning to know more about EVs. NPI has also been rolling out an information campaign to this end.
NPI’s Najima was also joined by Nissan ASEAN VP Isao Sekiguchi in another roundtable discussion with members of the media to talk more about the Leaf. Replying to a question from this writer, Sekiguchi said that the Philippines is considered one of the more important markets in the region, with situational parallels with its Southeast Asian neighbors can be seen.
“Energy cost (in the region) is still expensive,” he averred, while saying that the industry must pull the trigger at some time. “The Leaf introduction has been long awaited. It’s one of our icons… and something that we’re very proud of.” The executive added that it goes hand in hand with Nissan’s effort to become a carbon-neutral company.
“It is still maybe too early, but at some moment we have to start,” he underscored.
While surrounding cost can still be a bit steep, the Leaf (and electric vehicles in general) promise savings over the long term. Nissan says that preventive maintenance service (PMS) cost can be 25 percent less compared to regular vehicles because of fewer moving parts in the Leaf. The schedule is also the same as an ICE-powered vehicle. You only have to bring in the EV to the casa twice a year for the regular look-over.
In case you’re wondering, the cost of charging the Leaf is estimated at P360 to P370 per full charge, according to Najima. That’s almost a peso per kilometer.
The Nissan Leaf won’t be available at all NPI dealerships just yet – only three dealerships presently offer the car: Nissan Mantrade Makati, Nissan Otis, and Nissan Cebu South-V. Rama. Before the year ends, NPI will add four more to the list.
The good news is that customers may also (perhaps when in a pinch) get their Leaf charged at any of these stations for absolutely free. Of course, this means you’ll have to stay at the dealership for about an hour as your battery charges.
Back to the pricing, Nissan won’t say how much a Leaf’s battery costs to replace, but suffice it to say that it’s partly responsible for the price tag of the vehicle. “We recognize that the price of the leaf is strategically priced high, but this has a lot to do with the cost of the battery. That’s something we continue to work with suppliers on. A lot of OEMs welcome the competition,” said Najima. The good news is that Nissan has an eight-year/160,000-km warranty on the battery so you won’t have to worry about replacing it for a long time. Also, you by the time you do need to replace the battery, the price of one might be significantly low.
“Battery cost will go down significantly in eight years,” underscored Najima. Meanwhile, he proudly said that NPI won’t charge for the cable used in a buyer’s home charging system. The company will even send it a technician for free to ascertain how best to wire it up.
Sekiguchi believes that the Nissan Leaf will initially appeal here to, yes, early adopters who can charge their cars at home, then as charging infrastructure develops or a service provider takes on the cudgels, then more people can join the EV train.