page 2 of 2
To make a go of its electric car plans, Nissan will need next-generation lithium ion batteries with rapid-charging capability and enough energy storage to deliver a driving range of 100 miles or more. NEC batteries are being tested in the Subaru R1e, a car only slightly bigger than the Smart ForTwo. The Subaru R1e promises a range of about 50 miles per charge, but will require a large external charger to reduce charging time from several hours to several minutes. That means coming back home for each charge. Mr. Ghosn will have to put his businessman’s hat back on, and ask if consumers will pay $25,000—the figure offered by Tom Lane, Nissan’s global product-planning chief—for a vehicle roughly the size of a Smart car, with a top speed of 65 mph, a range of 50 miles, and overnight recharging.
Nissan is already working on these recharging challenges, by virtue of its partnership with Israel’s Project Better Place. In that project, the two companies hope to build an entirely new electric car business model and infrastructure—including lifetime warranties for batteries, roadside stations for charging, and a battery-swapping program. Here’s where the vaporware-detector really starts beeping.
“With battery swap-outs, you’re dealing with 300 pounds of batteries,” said Ed Kjaer, director of electric transportation at Southern California Edison. “You’ve got liability issues. You have issues around how that battery has been consumed by the previous driver. It’s not there today because the technology is not mature.” And that’s coming from one the electric utility industry’s most articulate and enthusiastic advocates of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. Kjaer and others industry leaders propose a one-step-at-a-time approach beginning with more hybrids, then plug-in hybrids, then electric vehicles—and finally a two-way smart electric car-electric grid network.
Fans of greener cars should be very pleased with Ghosn’s “growth and trust” plan—and should encourage Nissan and other carmakers to charge forward. Way to go, Nissan! But let’s face it: until specific vehicles with detailed specific attributes and pricing are heading to a dealership near you, it’s just talk.