Nissan tries to sell electric vehicles... by handing out free gas?

That's one way to do it, sure.

Andrew Krok Reviews Editor / Cars
Cars are Andrew's jam, as is strawberry. After spending years as a regular ol' car fanatic, he started working his way through the echelons of the automotive industry, starting out as social-media director of a small European-focused garage outside of Chicago. From there, he moved to the editorial side, penning several written features in Total 911 Magazine before becoming a full-time auto writer, first for a local Chicago outlet and then for CNET Cars.
Andrew Krok
2 min read

If someone filled up your tank for free, then suggested that you should consider an electric car instead, would you?

That's what Nissan hopes will happen with its "Kick Gas" marketing campaign, which hopes to increase EV awareness and adoption by... handing out free gas. This summer, Nissan will hand out free gas three times each in five different states -- Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.

2016 Nissan Leaf SL
Enlarge Image
2016 Nissan Leaf SL

A second-generation Leaf is due later this year.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

At first, I thought the idea was slightly insane. After all, handing out free gasoline to promote cars that don't run on gasoline sounds like handing an addict a mountain of free cigarettes in the hopes that they'll get tired of them eventually -- it sort of runs counter to logic. (If you do have a mountain of free cigarettes handy, please email me for my home address.)

But then again, Nissan might be on to something. The whole point of the campaign is to show people what it's like to own an EV, and one of those ownership experiences involves never paying for gas again. Sure, you'll pay for electricity, but you already pay that bill each month, and you don't have to schlep down the street to charge if you have the requisite plugs on your property. The idea of never going to another gas station is tempting.

Not to mention, this is a low-cost way to reach buyers outside of showrooms, so if it's effective, it didn't require much overhead. Plus, it's not like Nissan is going to hand out free Leafs to owners for multinight test drives, considering the logistical and infrastructural issues involved with something that major. Building goodwill is never a bad thing, even if buyers are still years away from going electric, and while Nissan's campaign might seem silly, it might also be pretty effective.

Right now, Nissan's sole battery-electric offering in the US is the first-generation Leaf. Its 107-mile range was bumped up for the 2016 model year, but it still lags behind newer competitors like the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the forthcoming Tesla Model 3. However, there's a new Leaf on the horizon, slated to debut later this year, and that should address its range deficit.

Watch this: On the road: 2016 Nissan Leaf