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Nissan’s free recharges imitate Tesla playbook

Bloomberg

Nissan Motor Co., the most prolific maker of electric cars, plans to offer free rapid charges for its battery-powered Leaf hatchback for new customers in Texas, experimenting with a strategy pioneered by Tesla Motors Inc.

Starting Oct. 1, people who buy or lease a new Leaf in Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston will get unlimited free access for a year to public chargers operated there by NRG Energy Inc.’s eVgo unit, the companies said in a statement Thursday.

The companies may expand the service to other markets depending on customer response.

“It’s a pilot program, so we’ll want to see how it goes,” Brian Brockman, a Nissan spokesman, said Thursday. “NRG has eVgo networks in other markets, and we have high hopes for this program.”

A pricing reduction this year and low-cost lease deals have helped Nissan more than triple U.S. Leaf sales through August to a record 14,123 units.

Electric carmaker Tesla is expanding its network of supercharger stations to recharge its Model S luxury sedan. Customers who buy the 85-kwh versions of the car, or an optional upgrade to the base model, are guaranteed free charges at the stations for life.

The offer of free fuel for the Leaf will be an enticement for some buyers, “but I’d call it a medium-sized enticement,” said Jack Nerad, executive editor for Kelley Blue Book.

“For the right person, near these charge stations, it could be a good thing and have some appeal,” Nerad said. “But it’s still striking me that in most instances, an electric car will mainly be a second or third vehicle for most people, because of the range limitations and how long it takes to charge them.”