(Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co Ltd (7201.T) has announced a $100-a-month battery replacement plan for U.S. owners of its electric Nissan Leaf.
The plan calls for participants to get a new or upgraded battery once their current battery capacity falls below 70 percent of initial output.
Nissan said its plan is modeled after its own program in Europe and those of competitors. Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O) Chief Executive Elon Musk said earlier this week his company will invest $50 million to $100 million to develop a battery replacement network.
Nissan's battery replacement plan begins in the first half of 2014, just over three years after the first compact Leaf electric cars were sold in the U.S. market.
All new Leaf cars have a five-year, 60,000 mile battery warranty for capacity loss. So Nissan does not expect many Leaf owners to sign up for the program until their cars are no longer covered by the battery capacity warranty, a spokesman said.
Nissan also has an eight-year, 100,000 mile warranty on defects.
Nissan said details of the plan for its other markets will be announced later.
A 2013 Leaf on a full charge has a range of 83 miles, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, up from 73 miles for the 2012 Leaf.
Sales of electric cars are improving, but slowly. A brake on rising sales is in part caused by the anxiety many drivers feel about getting to their destinations before the battery runs out.
Through May, Nissan sold 7,614 Leaf cars, nearly 200 percent more than in the first five months of 2011.
Sales in 2013 of other electric cars through May include 8,850 for the Tesla Model S, 843 for the Mitsubishi Motors Corp (7211.T) Mitsubishi i, 723 for the Ford Motor Co (F.N) Focus Electric, 364 for the Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) RAV4 EV, 83 for the Honda Motors Co (7267.T) Fit EV and 62 for the Smart forTwo EV, according to Hybridcars.com.
While the Leaf is often compared and cross-shopped with the Chevrolet Volt, the two cars have vastly different battery structures. Plus, the Leaf is all-electric, while the Volt is a plug-in hybrid car fueled by gasoline once the stored battery charge is near depletion.
Some 7,157 Volts were sold this year through May.
Reporting by Bernie Woodall. Editing by Andre Grenon