Regarding pure electric vehicles available right now in the US, there are really only two contenders for the top sales spot, Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf.
Nissan Leaf and Tesla Motors are fighting at opposite end of the spectrum, regarding price and range and comfort options, which means they really aren’t in competition with each other. Both automakers are looking at increased demand for their vehicles, which means they’re looking at ramping up production. Still, delivery numbers are modest, considering that some manufacturers of conventional vehicles can put out more than 100,000 cars per year. Almost every manufacturing process has a bottleneck, which limits the entire system.
“A bottleneck is a phenomenon where the performance or capacity of an entire system is limited by a single or limited number of components or resources” –Wikipedia.
The problem is that, in order to produce 100 Nissan Leaf, you need 100 lithium-ion battery packs, each of which requires 48 cell modules which, in turn, requires 4 individual cells, the electrodes of which are cut from a roll of material. If Nissan wants to increase production, they may be able to produce the vehicle, but it won’t move until it gets a battery pack. Nissan recently decided to increase production from 2,000/mo to 2,500/mo, adding a third shift to its electric-motor production plant, and could be adding a second shift to the battery production plant, but that’s where the bottleneck comes in, it takes up to two months for electrode rolls to make it from NEC in Japan to Nissan’s Tennessee battery production plant!
According to Nissan Leaf Global Sales VP Billy Hayes, “What we wanted to see was a sustained 2,000 [sales] a month and it’s no secret that we’re running kind of tight on dealer inventory. What people don’t really understand is that yes, we have capacity but there is also a lead time because of electrode production. Between the time that we make a decision to increase production to the time it actually goes up is about six months. We recently made the decision to increase production in the Smyrna plant, but we won’t see that until November or December.”
Image © Nissan