At $33K, Nissan LEAF to Be One of Cheapest Electric Cars

Nissan (s NSANY) announced the sticker price for its upcoming LEAF electric sedan, and at $32,780 (before incentives), it could be one of the cheapest highway-capable electric vehicles on the road in coming years. According to today’s announcement, Nissan also plans to offer an option to lease the vehicle for $349 per month. Nissan’s plans call for the cars to start rolling out in select U.S. markets in December, with national sales slated for next year.

The pricing announced today places 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). It’s a fair amount higher, however, than the starting price for the conventional sedan models with which Nissan has said it aims to offer a competitive price.

Although the automaker has kept quiet until now on many specifics, Nissan’s director of product planning for North America, Mark Perry (who will be speaking about the emergence of the new networked car at our Green:Net conference next month) said last summer that pricing for the LEAF would be competitive with the Honda Civic, Toyota Camry and the Nissan Altima — which start at less than $20,000.

As for the leasing, the LEAF’s $349 monthly payment comes in at a fraction of the lease payment for a Tesla Roadster, but on the high end compared to leasing offers available cars like the conventional Civic.

Nissan said late last year that it plans to provide the financing for most or all of the LEAF sedans in its initial rollout, as part of an effort to keep upfront costs down for customers. If Nissan is the one issuing the lease contract, the reasoning goes, then it gets to set the residual value (the car’s projected worth at the end of the lease). In general, while other factors also come into play, the higher the residual value is set — based on more optimistic estimates of long-term vehicle value and potential after-vehicle applications for the battery — the lower the monthly lease payments will be.

Nissan first offered a glimpse of the LEAF’s so-called EV-IT system last summer, including an onboard transmitting unit connected through mobile networks to a global data center, and a plan to let drivers find info about available charging stations and view the driving radius within range of their battery charge level on a navigation map.

Nissan said today that it plans to roll into the base price Internet and smart phone connectivity, “advanced navigation,” remote controls for heating, cooling and charging (elements of an iPhone app Nissan showed off in prototype in July), as well as three years of roadside assistance. It’ll cost you an extra $940, however, to get a model tricked out with a solar panel spoiler, rearview monitor, fog lights and automatic headlights.

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