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Nissan to Extend Electric Car Leadership With 135-Mile Leaf

Stocks in this article: NSANY GM

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The purpose of this article is to talk about the timing of the next-generation Nissan (NSANY) Leaf, which I expect to deliver 135 miles of range -- up from 84 miles today -- and start at $33,000, up from $29,000 today.

I believe this significant leap forward will take place as early as September or October of this year, extending Nissan's current electric car leadership.

The first version of the Nissan Leaf was the 2011-2012 model, which was improved in 2013. To date, over 100,000 Leafs have been sold, making Nissan the undisputed world-wide electric car market leader.

Despite the improvements on the 2013 Leaf, the car retains three main problems inhibiting sales:

1. Range. This is simple: 84 miles simply isn't enough for most people. As most electric car owners know, on very cold days range can drop by 30%. This means you have a de facto 60-mile car.

For those who have short daily commutes, or for those who can charge at work, this may be enough. However, for many people with longer commutes or those who have other additional driving needs, the current Leaf simply does not offer what is needed.

2. Range depletion over time. It is not just cold weather that diminishes range in all electric cars on the market. Nissan has also had a particular problem with the Leaf in terms of the cars losing capacity faster than some competitors, especially General Motors (GM). If after a few years, you have lost 25% of capacity, you now have an average of 63 miles left (75% of 84). Then drive on a cold day and you have 44 miles left, assuming 30% range loss (70% of 63). Clearly, Nissan has to solve this horrific 25% range loss over time.

3. No telescoping steering wheel. For tall people with long legs, the Nissan Leaf is simply uncomfortable to drive. Nissan needs to learn to design for tall people with long legs, just like BMW with its i3.

This article focuses on the first of those three items.

I can see where some of you are saying "So what?" about my claim that a 135-mile Nissan Leaf will be coming to market -- and you would be right. Of course a 135-mile Nissan Leaf will be coming -- just like a faster computer will also be coming in a few months from now.

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