Nissan leads the charge

ON 1 August 2009, at the opening of its new global headquarters in Yokohama, Nissan launched its first fully electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf EV.

Nissan appears to have made a long term strategic commitment to electric vehicles. According to one source, Nissan has been busy developing electric vehicles since 1992.

Nissan, with alliance partner Renault, has bold ambitions. Toyota and Honda have both produced fuel-electric hybrids, but Nissan is the first car maker with plans to mass produce a fully electric vehicle.  The Nissan Leaf EV will be able to run 160km (100 miles) on a single charge which, according to Nissan, would make it suitable for the daily driving needs of over 80% of Americans.

Fully electric cars are not a new idea but, up until now, there have been a number of factors preventing mass market introduction, including:

  1. limited battery life;
  2. the high cost of battery technology;
  3. inconvenience of lengthy battery charging times; and
  4. lack of supporting infrastructure.

Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan, has responded to these consumer concerns about affordability and convenience.   The Nissan Leaf EV will incorporate two clever innovations:

  1. Battery leasing: Electric cars have traditionally been more expensive than petrol cars, due mainly to battery costs.  Battery costs will most likely fall with mass production. However, Nissan’s key innovation is their plan to lease batteries to customers rather than sell the car at an inflated price. As a result, the Nissan Leaf EV is expected to cost no more than a petrol car.
  2. Quick charge: The batteries will have fast charge capabilities, with a 10 minute quick charge providing an extra 50km of range.

Will cities around the world commit to building the necessary infrastructure to support these new electric vehicles?  If so, the Nissan Leaf EV could be the bright spark we’ve been waiting for.