Following an unintentional disclosure by CEO Carlos Ghosn, Nissan has confirmed it will “very soon take the issue of range off of the table.”
The company is otherwise still being vague, not ready to show what it has, but Ghosn suggested a near-ready battery to enable affordable electric cars good for as many 250 miles (400 km) depending on configuration, and how it’s tested.
The implication is furthermore that the new chemistry has more power per volume so increasing range to beyond Tesla proportions would just be a function of making a battery pack a bit bigger in volume, but it would presumably still be smaller than a Model S pack.
Whether the Nissan Leaf will get the battery, as is believed, or it and other Renault and Nissan vehicles will get it, as would be likely, is not being disclosed.
According to Bertel Schmitt of the Daily Kanban, who spoke with contacts at the company, Nissan appears slightly worried it could put a chill on present EV sales.
But, they won’t deny the story now that the boss let the cat out of the bag.
The revelation came on a late-night airing of Tokyo Business News Channel where Ghosn was pressed by the host on what Nissan is going to do.
Host: Is Nissan working on new batteries?
Host: Can you tell us more?
Host: Will the range double?
Host: That means more than 400 kilometers?
Ghosn’s one-word oblique answers could be interpreted a few different ways, but the implication and context suggest Nissan is putting the finishing touches on a commercially ready battery that could make the big-heavy, expensive pack in a Model S look old-tech.
Given that “400 km” is considered “double” range indicates the Japanese interview is contemplating cars as tested under Japanese government rules which tend to be optimistic next to U.S. EPA numbers. Nissan’s Leaf certainly does not now have a 124-mile range in the U.S., but given high energy density, ability to compete with “petrol” cars’ range is being considered.
Ghosn’s answers also dovetail with a report in May, where Nissan’s Andy Palmer said Nissan has high energy density “game changing technology” to push Leaf to at least 186 miles to combat fuel cell vehicles selling on just this issue – short range for the buck with present EVs.
To gauge Ghosn’s comment, Schmitt followed up with Jeff Kuhlman, Nissan’s head spokesman, who added to the notion that this new battery chemistry is not some far-off science project.
“[w]e continue our R&D efforts because we believe that we can do more with battery electric, and very soon take the issue of range off of the table,” said Kuhlman. “In other words, cars with a comparable range to today’s petrol vehicles.”
Today’s “petrol vehicles” actually have more than 200-250 miles range but Kuhlman did not elaborate.
As it is, for those who say present range is too short – such as Toyota and car shoppers sitting on the sidelines – this objection may be answered not so long from now.
Even Toyota has quietly suggested EV range may soon be solved, and an unidentified Japanese engineer told the Daily Kanban “Commercial applications could be no more than one model cycle away.” Despite all its talk over fuel cells, Toyota is working on improving EV batteries, as we also have reported.
Actually many automakers are working on the next best thing – though most say a breakthrough is not on the near horizon – and in addition to the objection of sub-100 mile range for average priced EVs today, is also recharge times.
Tesla and others have been working on recharging faster than today’s Supercharger and DC fast chargers which replenish 80- percent charge in under 20-30 minutes. Different chemistries which can recharge faster have also shown promise.
So where does that leave Nissan? While Ghosn is not known to exaggerate in the extreme, and two officials suggest it’s just a matter of time, Nissan has yet to truly and unequivocally reveal its hand.