Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nissan's Electric Car Plans

Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan, reaffirmed the company’s commitment to pure electric vehicles rather than hybrids in a recent speech marking the opening of Nissan’s new factory in Tennessee. He said he expected to have these on the market by 2010 and that he expected them to be price-competitive and profitable from the outset. I think this is the way to go, because adding a range-extending gasoline motor adds weight, cost, and complication.

It is also a bold move given the current state of battery technology, because the range is likely to be somewhat restrictive. Ghosn said that vehicles would be tailored to individual countries’ needs. He stopped short of saying that the cars would be available in the US, saying only that any car sold in the US would have to have a range of at least 100 miles. He thought some European markets might accept shorter ranges. It seems to me that this is at best acceptable only in a second car. But that would be a good start, and battery technology will surely improve over the next few years.

No doubt sister-company Renault’s deal with the Israeli government to provide the infrastructure to allow quick battery changes at a network of “filling stations” will help provide the volume necessary to be profitable from the outset.

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