People around the world are increasingly focusing on the threat of global warming and the needs for lower vehicle emissions and independence from oil, and automakers are responding to the need with a variety of technological solutions. Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. (NML) continues to invest in a portfolio of “green” technologies, including clean diesels, hybrids and fuel cell vehicles. But the centerpiece of Nissan’s product strategy for the coming years will be zero-emission vehicles, beginning with an all-electric car.
Nissan has made a strategic commitment to lead the global automobile industry in mass-marketing zero-emission vehicles.
“We are preparing a car that will be neutral to the environment – transportation without guilt over the environment,” says Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn. “We are emphasizing zero emissions. It’s a territory we want to own, and we are taking all the initiatives necessary to make it happen.”
Nissan believes the end game to address environmental concerns is zero emissions and the best way to curb emissions is not to produce them at all.
Nissan’s EV strategy was announced with the company’s business plan in May 2008: “Nissan, along with Renault, [will] become a global leader in zero-emission vehicles.”
Nissan will develop a range of high-quality electric vehicles that are safe, well engineered, attractive, affordable and fun to drive. The all-electric vehicle will be introduced in the United States and Japan in 2010, and Nissan will begin to mass-market electric vehicles globally in 2012. With zero carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions and zero particles pollution, the electric vehicle will be the most environmentally friendly mass-produced car on the market.
Working with governments to launch a breakthrough technology
Nissan is on the front line of working with cities and countries around the world to prepare the conditions that will allow electric vehicles to succeed.
“We see the interdependence of the automakers, the Governments and third parties in building a greener transportation system,” said Mr. Ghosn.
Nissan with Alliance partner Renault has been forging partnerships with governments and specialist companies to build a sustainable mobility network and nurture public awareness as preparations evolve for marketing EVs on a mass scale in 2012. Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) have been signed with electricity companies, charging station suppliers, governments, states and countries to promote the concept of zero emission mobility. To date the Alliance Renault-Nissan has formed 27 partnerships to advance the deployment of EVs worldwide.
Local, state and federal governments can provide infrastructure support, promote awareness and public education, use EV fleet vehicles, craft legislation or offer other incentives, such as tax relief or parking/toll rebates for EV buyers.
Utilities can support the EV infrastructure by providing power load management or grid capacity expansion or by developing renewable energy sources.
Among the countries and states already on board are Monaco, Portugal, China, Denmark, Israel, Tennessee, Oregon and Sonoma Country… with more to come.
The Nissan electric vehicle lineup
The electric vehicle Nissan will introduce in 2010 will have a unique body style on an all-new vehicle platform.
It will be compact for the city, yet big enough to carry five adults. Importantly, it will be thoroughly usable with brisk performance and a range of 160kms or 100 miles. It will have the performance of a typical 1.6-litre petrol-engined car while recharging from a high voltage source will restore 80 per cent of the battery capacity in around 30 minutes.
And it will be just the first in a range of purpose-designed EVs from Nissan. Initial sales will start in 2010 in Japan and North America, but by 2012 it will be available globally.
The key components of an electric car are its battery, motor and inverter. The EV is powered by an electric motor, completely replacing the conventional internal combustion engine. The inverter is located close to the motor and conveys the electricity generated by the battery to the motor.
Advanced compact lithium-ion battery
The heart of the electric car is its battery. Nissan’s vehicle will be powered by advanced compact lithium-ion batteries sourced from a Nissan-NEC joint venture company, AESC (Automotive Energy Supply Corporation), which was formed in April 2007.
These advanced batteries offer superior performance, reliability, safety, versatility and cost competitiveness, compared to the conventional nickel metal-hydride batteries. The compact laminated configuration delivers twice the electric power of a conventional nickel-metal hydride battery with a cylindrical configuration.
The compact lithium-ion battery pack allows for improved vehicle packaging and a wide range of applications. The pack will be installed under the EV’s floor, without sacrificing cabin or cargo space.
Lithium-ion batteries do not experience the “memory effect,” which occurs when incomplete charging cycles lead to a drastic decline in range. Nissan’s battery should maintain 80% of its capacity after six years of use.
Nissan has been conducting research on lithium-ion batteries for vehicle applications since 1992. Nissan introduced the world’s first application of lithium-ion batteries in the Prairie Joy EV in 1996, followed by the ultra-compact electric vehicle Hypermini in 2000.
Vehicle cost and business model
Rather than paying a premium for an environmentally friendly car, buyers of Nissan’s electric car can expect their operating cost to compare favorably to that of a similar-sized gasoline- or diesel-powered car.
The energy distribution system used to operate the vehicle may vary, depending on the parameters determined in each market.
In Israel, customers may charge their car’s battery at a charging station or exchange the battery completely at a specially designed station.
Another option is that customers would buy the cars and lease the batteries. Using a business model similar to what customers now experience with their personal cell phones, they could pay a fee to purchase a specified number of miles per month. For more miles, they would pay more.
The transition from gasoline-powered cars to electricity-powered cars requires a transformation in the way customers think about buying and using their cars.
“We will unveil our new electric vehicle for the first time in early August, at the opening of our new global headquarters, but I remind you that Nissan’s zero-emissions strategy is unique because it goes beyond the vehicle itself. Taking this new technology to mass production requires building up the necessary infrastructure and securing the economic conditions for success through partnerships with governments and other third parties. This is our vision, and we are working aggressively to make it happen,” said Mr Ghosn.