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Nissan Leaf 2022 is now the cheapest EV in the US — and it's a game changer

Nissan Leaf 2022
(Image credit: Nissan)

The Nissan Leaf has always been one of the cheaper EVs on the market, but the 2022 model has just taken things up a notch. Nissan has dropped the starting price to $27,400, making it the cheapest EV on sale in the U.S.

This news is a big deal, not just because it’ll help boost the leaf’s existing popularity, but because of the effect it could have on the EV industry as a whole. In fact, cheap prices like this will help fix one of the electric car industry’s biggest issues.

There are several reasons why some people are hesitant to purchase an EV over a gas-powered car. A lot of focus is leveled on recharging infrastructure and range, though pricing is still a major concern. While there are plenty of EVs under the $40,000 mark, as a general rule they are still more expensive than their gas equivalents.

Take the Nissan Micra, for instance. Newer models have the exact same design as the Leaf, and prices start at £14,340 here in the U.K. Meanwhile, the cheapest Leaf is £25,995 — almost £12,000 more. Likewise, the Ford F-150 Lightning is going to go on sale in the U.S. next year for $39,974, while the gas-powered F-150 is over $10,000 cheaper at $29,990.

Of course, most of the price delta between EVs and gas-powered cars stems from the fact lithium batteries are expensive, and that’s a huge part of why EVs cost as much as they do. It’s a problem that’s only going to get better with time, but for now it means buying a brand new EV is a costly endeavor. 

Lower EV prices are good for everyone

I’d previously argued that Tesla releasing a $25K hatchback would be great for the EV industry, since it would likely set a new standard on what a cheap electric car should be like. The idea being that by releasing a car with all the standard Tesla features for such a low price, other automakers would have to follow suit in order to compete.

The Leaf S is still eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax rebate, which makes the cost a Leaf just under $20,000.

Nissan clearly decided it was time to lower the cost of entry right now, rather than wait for Tesla to get there first. And it’s not just the entry-level Nissan Leaf S that’s enjoyed a price cut, either. All Nissan Leaf variants have had even bigger price cuts, making the most expensive Leaf SL Plus just $37,400. That’s $2,500 cheaper than the Tesla Model 3, for those keeping score.

Of course, that doesn’t even begin to consider the federal tax credits you might be able to claim. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy still lists the Leaf as being eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax rebate, which makes the cost of buying a 2022 Leaf (minus taxes, licenses, and fees) just under $20,000.

This new price change means that the 2022 Leaf is cheaper than the Mini Electric, the previous ‘cheapest’ EV in the U.S. that starts at $29,900. In fact, the Mini Electric is looking like a pretty poor deal in comparison, since it only offers 114 miles of range on a single charge. Meanwhile, the 40kWh Leaf models offer an EPA range of 149 miles, and the 62kWh models offer 226 miles.

In other words, the Leaf is a much better deal, particularly now that Nissan has corrected a terrible mistake and made the 50kW CHAdeMO rapid charger a standard feature on its cheapest models. But the 2022 Leaf does still use a CHAdeMO charger, rather than the more common CCS, which means Nissan continues to be the main holdout on the ailing charging standard in the U.S.

More is needed, but this is a great start

Nissan Leaf 2022

(Image credit: Nissan)

Don’t get me wrong, $27,500 is still a decent amount of money to spend, even if it is cheaper than some of the more extravagant cars on the roads. But by lowering its prices in this way, Nissan has made the 2022 Leaf a lot more appealing. 

That’s exactly what the EV industry needs, lower prices that give people enough of an incentive to choose electric over gas. And if one company is willing to undercut the competition on price, you can be damn sure that the other EV makers will be taking notice. It would not be surprising if other electric car companies made similar price cuts over the coming months.

Plus, encouraging people to buy more new electric cars will likely have an impact on the used car market as well. The used car industry is huge, and makes owning a car a lot more affordable than buying new every single time. The only issue is that finding a good used EV can be difficult.

But by having more EVs on the road, it means those cars will eventually find their way into used car dealerships across the United States. It's a move that will in-turn make EVs even more accessible to a whole new market.

It’s going to take time, but Nissan has just taken the first big step to making it happen. The Nissan Leaf 2022 is expected to arrive before the end of the year, though we don’t know exactly when.

Tom Pritchard

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.