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Accueil du site > Magazine > Archives > 2009 > 1er trim 2009 > International > Nissan is preparing to mass-market electric vehicles globally that he plans for 2012.
No concept car electric vehicle on the Nissan stand, but the Japanese manufacturer sets out its strategy and targets for zero-emission vehicles.
Nissan, within the Renault-Nissan Alliance, will lead the global automobile industry in mass-marketing zero-emission vehicles. Why Nissan uses its advanced compact lithium-ion battery technology and partnership agreements with governments, cities and other organizations that will advance the deployment of electric vehicles (EVs) worldwide.
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 next five years will be zero-emission vehicles, beginning with an all-electric car.
“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.”
“At Nissan, we firmly believe that the ultimate solution for sustainable mobility lies in zero-emission vehicles,” says Carlos Tavares, NML’s executive vice president market intelligence, brand management, design, program management, LCV business, Infiniti business and control. “Electric vehicles represent one clear strategic direction embedded in NISSAN GT 2012, our midterm business plan.”
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.
“Leadership is defined as the first one who is going to mass market EVs globally,” he says. “Talking about electric cars on TV or selling 100 cars in the United States is not leadership. We are the only company signing agreements with countries and local governments around the world. These contracts are not just paperwork ; they are commitments. We have signed with Israel, Denmark, Kanagawa Prefecture, Portugal, Tennessee, France (EDF), Yokohama, Oregon, Monaco, Sonoma County and there are many other countries and companies lining up to sign agreements with us."
“Electric cars can transform our industry, and we are playing a leading role in this change. We became involved from the beginning, we are taking a position, we are investing, we are developing technology, and we are securing the patent and intellectual property around the battery. We want to make sure that Nissan will come first and will be a leader in a very promising technology.”
The time is right for EVs
Nissan’s electric vehicle program is revolutionary, not evolutionary, introducing technologies and a business model unlike anything that has appeared in the long history of electric vehicle development. And EVs do have a long history of ups and downs.
When gasoline-powered cars were introduced in the early 1900s, the shift away from electric cars started. Gasoline was becoming readily available, and gas-fueled cars gave consumers more horsepower and the ability to travel longer distances.
Interest in electric cars picked up again in the early 1970s as consumers became concerned about high oil prices. In the mid- to late 1990s, several manufacturers offered all-electric models.
For the successful, widespread adoption of EVs today, conditions should include :
Nissan is convinced that several factors – social, political, financial, technical and demographic – are converging to create a receptive environment for zero-emission mobility :
In summary, zero-emission vehicles make environmental and economic sense. “Regulators have put in place environmental milestones in the United States, and others are being negotiated in Japan and Europe, but the focus is becoming market-driven, which is more powerful than the regulations,” says Ghosn. “We are trying to move faster than the regulations. It’s a question of fundamental competitiveness."
“With the conditions that exist today, you realize that kaizen is not enough. You need a breakthrough, and we believe the breakthrough is electric cars.”
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. The design of the vehicle has not yet been released.
The EV will have a driving range of 100 miles (160 kilometers) on a single charge. Future generations will have an autonomy range that will be steadily improved as battery development continues.
“Driving range concerns can be solved with an adequate infrastructure and by changes in people’s mindsets. Most people drive less than 100 kilometers a day, which is well within the range of our EV,” says Mitsuhiko Yamashita, executive vice president of research and development and TCSX (Total Customer Satisfaction function).
Nissan has not ruled out the possibility to equip some models with an optional range extender (a gas-powered engine that recharges the battery and keeps the vehicle moving after the initial plug-in charge expires, enabling the car to travel an additional 300 miles before refueling or recharging), but the company’s primary objective for long-term sustainability remains on achieving zero emissions.
Although specifics about battery charging are being developed, the battery should be capable of an 80% recharge in around 20 minutes using a high-voltage charging source and six to eight hours to full charge on a domestic power supply.
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.
Three key points related to the battery are its materials, structure and control.
“We are focused on safety, so the battery materials should be stable. The manganese-based material we use is very safe,” says Shinohara. “The laminated structure controls heat emission. And Nissan’s battery size is the industry benchmark for compactness.”
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.
“We know how the battery will perform, based on real-world experience, which is very important,” says Shinohara. “We are now focused on the development of the total vehicle. We’re working on enhancing its attractiveness, control, performance and functionality.”
That emphasis is rightly aligned, as affirmed by Nissan’s CEO : “The objective is not the battery ; the objective is the car. Our goal is to put zero-emission cars 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.
In 2010, the start of commercial/fleet sales of the Nissan electric vehicle will begin. Through partnerships with municipalities and commercial/state fleets, Nissan can build a sustainable mobility network and nurture public awareness as preparations evolve for marketing EVs on a mass scale in 2012.
Nissan is leading the industry in developing innovative partnerships with governments around the world to promote electric vehicles.
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.
Vehicle cost and business model
With two years to go before Nissan’s electric vehicle is launched, the price of the vehicle is yet to be determined.
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. The shift creates the need for thorough, careful planning from the automaker’s perspective as well.
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