When is the Leaf coming?

October 25, 2010

Nissan suspended reservations for the new Leaf electric vehicle after they “sold” out the entire 2011 model year production – 20,000 for the U.S. For those reservation holders, when might cars actually arrive? Nissan won’t say much about orders and production, but enough information has slipped out to allow some estimates.

graph of reservation vs production dates

From postings at the mynissanleaf.com forum and from news reports I found how many U.S. reservations had been made by various dates. E.g., there were 6,750 reservations in the first 3 hours of 4/20, and by the next day the number was up to 12,000.

I also found that the annual production capacity is 50,000 cars, and that 20,000 (40%) are slated to ship to the U.S. in the 2011 model year.  It was also reported that only 12,000 vehicles would be produced by the end of March. So if the U.S. gets the same 40% of that early production, that would mean 4,800 cars from 10/22/10 when the Oppama plant began production through 3/31/11, and then the remainder of the 20,000 cars through 10/21/11.

Nissan says that reservation date determines delivery date, although there are some adjustments for the sequence of roll-out in the different states, and I imagine there will also be adjustments for cities participating in the EV Project. With no data on who reserved when, I ignore the geographic adjustments; i.e. assume that all localities got their reservations in at about the same rate. Then it’s simply a matter of matching the reservations in sequence to the production to determine when cars will be produced for those who reserved on a certain date.

There’s one more crucial factor for which I have no data: the “conversion rate.” How many of the people who deposited $99 to reserve a Leaf will actually follow through and place an order? Not all. Some will be stricken with Range Anxiety (tm GM). Some will change jobs or move so their commute patterns no longer fit with an EV. So besides the unrealistic 100% conversion rate, I also calculated production dates assuming that 40% and that 60% of reservations turn into orders. No doubt Nissan is counting on some attrition, or else with only 20,000 cars available in the U.S. in 2011 they would have none to sell off the lot, none to sell to rental car companies and fleets, and none to use as dealers demos. No doubt Nissan also knows the exact percentage of reservations that are turning into orders, city by city, but of course they aren’t telling.

Production finished assuming
Conversion Rate
Reservation Date Number 100% 60% 40%
04/20/10 6,750 1/20/11 12/15/10 11/27/10
04/21/10 12,000 4/1/11 1/26/11 12/25/10
04/23/10 16,588 4/25/11 4/15/11 4/10/11
04/30/10 20,000 5/13/11 4/26/11 4/18/11
05/13/10 22,500 5/27/11 5/4/11 4/23/11
05/15/10 23,750 6/3/11 5/8/11 4/26/11
05/18/10 30,000 7/6/11 5/28/11 5/9/11
05/28/10 32,500 7/20/11 6/6/11 5/15/11
06/22/10 35,000 8/2/11 6/14/11 5/20/11
07/21/10 40,750 9/2/11 7/2/11 6/1/11
07/27/10 42,500 9/11/11 7/8/11 6/5/11
08/30/10 45,000 9/25/11 7/16/11 6/10/11
09/07/10 46,500 10/3/11 7/21/11 6/14/11
09/23/10 50,000 10/22/11 8/1/11 6/21/11

So for my 8/31 reservation, assuming a 60% conversion rate, that would put my production date around 7/16/11. So I’d expect that Nissan will finally tell me in January when they plan to take my order, take my order in April, and deliver my car in early August. I’d rather have it tomorrow. But there’s one huge practical advantage to getting it so late. The EV Project expects the San Diego recharging infrastructure to begin this month and to be complete by July. The publicly funded portion will be complete, that is. The idea is that private entities will also add charging stations, as Best Buy, Arco gas stations, and Woodinville Lutheran Church are doing.

So in case plans go terribly awry in building that infrastructure, then I should have a pretty good idea of it by the time I can order. In that case an EV might still make sense as a primary car, since we have another gasoline car for weekend trips. And only 100 mile range for my daily commute? I barely drive over 100 miles in a week. Recharging only at home each night ought to work fine. But I want to also be able to use the EV for most of our weekend trips, which are short, but would still require one or two recharges.