Nissan Announces e-NV200 As It Plans For More Electric Vehicles to Follow

Today Nissan confirmed it will begin European production of its all-electric e-NV200 – the third of four electric vehicles known to be part of its plans to proliferate EVs in a variety of segments.

A couple of the other EVs you also may know – the Leaf, launched December 2010, the Infiniti-branded LE concept luxury sedan introduced at the 2012 New York Auto Show that could compete with the Tesla Model S, and a fourth EV could be a small urban commuter for younger drivers.

The concept for the e–VN200 was shown January at the Detroit Motor Show, and Nissan’s confirmation today says it will be built in Barcelona.

Nissan is sinking €41 million ($51.5 million) into the project estimated to create 700 jobs for Nissan and Spanish suppliers.

More than just a light-duty commercial vehicle, the e-NV200 will also be equipped as a family hauler, and Nissan heralded its second EV as a groundbreaking endeavor toward its goal of EVs taking over 10 percent of the auto market by 2020.

“e-NV200 represents a genuine breakthrough in commercial vehicles and further underlines Nissan’s leadership within the electric vehicle segment, said Andy Palmer, Nissan Executive Vice President. “The new model will offer all the spaciousness, versatility and practicality of a traditionally powered compact van, but with zero CO2 emission at the point of use and provides outstanding driving experience that is unique to EV’s. “Crucially, it will also offer class-leading running and maintenance costs which makes it an exceptionally attractive proposition to both businesses and families.”

Nissan says the e-NV200 will deliver a driving range similar to the Nissan LEAF on which it is based, along with similar performance, “with best in class running and maintenance costs.”

And while Nissan is catering to those who have larger carrying duties than can be met by the five-passenger Leaf, about the same time its luxury car division will be challenging California start-up Tesla with an Infiniti.

We have inquired of Nissan, and it is keeping tight lipped, but the Infiniti LE may well have an improved battery as could the Leaf.

Tesla is touting its roughly $50,000-$100,000 car will have range estimated from as much as 160 miles on a charge for the 40-kwh version to in excess of 300 miles for the 85-kwh versions.

Infiniti LE Concept.

But whether Infiniti will actually compete head-to-head, or just try to erode away Tesla’s customer base with its more established nameplate is anyone’s guess at this point.

The sporty LE Concept is more high-line than the Leaf, but underneath the pretty exterior shown this year resided a humble Leaf powertrain with 24-kwh battery supplying just 134 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque.

If Nissan really wants to compete with the powerful Model S variants, it will have to pull a rabbit out of a hat – or possibly more motor and new battery technology, such as NMC chemistry or the like that’s been rumored as long ago as 2009.

And not to leave another critical market segment out, Nissan also intends to make a car in Europe for people who don’t really even like cars all that much – the youngest generation.

Here the rumor mill was aided and abetted by Nissan’s own aforementioned Andy Palmer, who told Auto Express the company was considering the Pivo concepts as inspirational foundations.

Note four-wheel steering.

“It’s aimed at the generation that’s coming up, that seems to have very little interest in conventional cars,” Palmer said. “If you add in-wheel motors and batteries under the floor, everything from there up is up to you.”

The 3-meter-long Pivo was shown at the 2011 Tokyo show and had such novel features as Automated Valet Parking (AVP) enabling it to automatically drive, locate a parking space and park without driver assistance. This technology though would require compatible infrastructure equipped parking lots.

Palmer said Nissan internally is calling the car slated for 2015 “Symbol” and it will reinterpret what an EV should look like and be.

Incidentally, as the industry undergoes a shakeout over CHAdeMO vs. SAE plugs, Palmer also said the days are numbered for plugs. Low-voltage wireless inductive charging was only about a year away he said, and Nissan also is working on wireless high-voltage charging, but to date, “fast-charging wirelessly is a little more tricky.”