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Nissan LEAF to Sell for Under $45K: Report

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Nissan (s NSANY), one of the automakers betting most heavily on the nascent electric vehicle market, will price its upcoming LEAF plug-in sedan in the range of 3.5 million to 4 million yen (about $38,600-$44,100) in Japan, according to a Mainichi Shimbun report picked up by MarketWatch on Wednesday.

Last month Nissan said it will begin accepting reservations in April, and will set a final price for the car “shortly” before that. Well, April is just two weeks away. But the price of the LEAF has been a subject of much speculation almost since Nissan announced plans for the model, and the company tells us that this latest estimate is no different. A spokesperson for the automaker told us this morning that Nissan remains firm on its plan to hold off on releasing the retail price for the U.S. market until “the springtime.”

The pricing reported by Mainichi Shimbun would place the LEAF slightly under the retail prices slated for Mitsuishi’s planned i-MiEV, Coda Automotive’s Coda sedan, and Tesla’s Model S (see: Electric Sedan Smackdown). While Nissan has kept mum on specifics, the company’s director of product planning for North America, Mark Perry (who will be speaking at our Green:Net conference next month) said last summer that pricing for the LEAF would be competitive with the Honda (s HMC) Civic, Toyota (s TM) Camry and the Nissan Altima.

Those conventional sedan models start at less than $20,000, however — a sticker price that will be hard for many electric car makers to hit while lithium-ion batteries, generally the most expensive part of a plug-in vehicle, cost upwards of $11,000 to make.

The high price of lithium-ion batteries is one reason why some companies, particularly Better Place, are developing interesting business models around electric vehicle batteries and charging services, why automakers including Nissan have considered financing the battery separately from the vehicle itself (an option that’s now off the table for the LEAF) — and why, according to Lux Research, electric vehicles will garner only a sliver of the global vehicle market for years to come.