nissan-leaf-20000editors-blog-entry3Nissan announced yesterday that 20,000 people have now reserved an all-electric Nissan LEAF (we are among this group).

According to Nissan, this milestone number comes three months earlier than anticipated. In fact, it’s large enough that Nissan has said it will temporarily shut down its LEAF reservation process in order to ensure that it can adequately serve the first 20,000 people who’ve queued up for a new LEAF.

Milestone moments are ripe for reflection and analysis. So, here goes: A few thoughts on the LEAF hitting the 20,000 reservation mark.

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  • Will 20,000 LEAF reservations quiet the EV naysayers? I wonder if this number is big enough to shut up some of the EV doomsayers — or to at least give them pause. I’m hoping it is, but I’m guessing it’s not. Many of the anti-EV folks are quite rabid. In fact, it’s sometimes a bit hard to figure out exactly why they’re so angry about EVs. (Of course, I’m not going to let this stop me from offering some analysis on why I think anti-EVers are so angry in a future blog entry!)
  • Is Nissan helping to push other automakers on plug-ins? Hard to say for sure, but it seems like Nissan’s so far quite successful LEAF push has played a fairly large role in lighting a fire under some of the other major automakers who, until fairly recently, have been slow – hello, Toyota — on the plug-in front, or even downright antagonistic toward them – hello, Honda.
  • Will Nissan be able to deliver its 20,000 LEAFs in a timely fashion? In the U.S., the West Coast, Arizona, and Tennessee will get the first LEAFs.Texas and a handful of other U.S. states will allegedly see LEAFs arrive on dealer lots in April of 2011. It’s a bit unclear precisely when the rest of the U.S. might see LEAFs become available. Right now, Nissan says we’ll see the LEAF in the U.S. as a whole about a year from now, in the Fall 2011. Those of us in places like Colorado — which are completely off the radar of Nissan’s upcoming “Drive Electric Tour” — will have to wait and see if this actually happens.
  • Will the LEAF beat the Ford Focus Electric to market in the middle of the U.S.? Ford has been saying the Focus Electric will be out in the Fall of 2011, but hasn’t said where it will be available. It appears the Fall of 2011 is when the LEAF will be available country-wide in the U.S. If the LEAF beats the Focus Electric to market by six months or more in most of the U.S., a lot of impatient early-adopter-want-to-bes (like us!), will probably go for a LEAF. But, if the Focus Electric arrives at about the same time as the LEAF in much of the U.S., I’m guessing the Focus Electric will peel away some of the prospective LEAF buyers, including, potentially, us.
  • nissan-leafWill the LEAF live up to expectations? Will the LEAF work and drive well? It’s absolutely crucial to the whole plug-in movement that the first mass-produced plug-ins out are well-made and have few, if any, problems. A great and reliable LEAF(and Volt, and Focus Electric, and CODA Sedan EV, and Tesla S, etc.) will mean radical, even exponential growth in plug-ins in the U.S. – and globally. This growth will occur largely thanks to the power of the word-of-mouth effect. A not-so-great and not-so-reliable LEAF (and Volt, etc.) could severely damage the plug-in movement, even potentially cripple it.
  • Are 20,000 LEAF reservations just the tip of the consumer EV iceberg, or is it the whole thing (as the EV naysayers will claim)? Many plug-in advocates have been saying for years that there’s a lot of pent-up demand for EVs in the U.S. Having 20,000 people sign up for a LEAF in just five months seems to indicate they’re on to something (you’ve also got more than 50,000 people on Lyle Denis’ GM-Volt.Com “Interest” sign-up page). But will the next round of interest for LEAFs and Volts and other plug-ins match the early excitement? Many mainstream analysts say no. I’m betting the analysts are wrong. One thing few analysts have taken into account in their “expert” assessment of the plug-in market: The high number of two-car households in the U.S. in which “range anxiety” – supposedly the biggest consumer interest killer — will be a complete non-issue.

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