Nissan’s Electric Car Plans: Victory or Vapor?

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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.


  • VaPrius

    Nissan… Didn’t they used to make cars?

  • Gary Greenwood

    2010, 2012, 2323….. Plan, Plan, Plan,…..Yatta, Yatta, Yatta…..WHERE’S THE BEEF?
    Doesn’t anyone ever put one of these hybird concept car prototypes into production? I’ve seen them for “YEARS” at auto shows, ALL Talk and NO Action!

  • GAry Greenwood

    Makes one wonder just how much of the “Big Oil Companies” WINDFALL PROFITS are getting into the hands of the auto manufactureers hands to “NOT” build any Hybrids ior Zero Emission Vehicles and just keep on “PLANNING”. Guess we will all have to wait until the world really does run out of oil to get a real “Zero Emmission Vehicle”.

  • JJSpawn

    Got to agree w/ GAry….. w/ as much extra cash sitting in oil companies pockets… y not pay a research division that perpetual goes in circles continuously coming out w/ cars so far out they belong in video games.

    -JJJ

  • colorchem

    It takes a minimum of three years to design a new vehicle using existing off-the-shelf technology. And even then there is a lot of finger crossing during initial rollout. Even highly motivated and dynamic organizations such as Tesla took four years to rollout a low volume next generation electric car. Although both GM and Nissan have poor track records, even if they are serious it will take 6 or more years before we see a high production level electric or plug-in hybrid car.

  • Need2Change

    I appaud Ghosn for changing his opinion. Probably did for three reasons: one the current price of oil is much greater than most predicted and will continue to climb; two, knowledgement of the harm of CO2; and three, the opportunity to build electric only cars in Israel, Denmark, and many other small countries.

    Obviously, automotive manufacturers need to wait for lithium batteries to get better, safer, and cheaper. They also need to completely redesign heating, A/C, stereos, windshield wipers, lights, power steering, power brakes, etc. to make them draw less electricity.

    This clearly is an opportunity for Nissan to jump past Toyota and Honda — at least in one aspect of the business. Hybrids are great, but they still run on gasoline. They are a mid-term solution. We need cars that can drive 40 miles or more without burning any petrolium — and I give Nissan, Chevrolet, Tesla, Fisker, Think, and others the credit for making that happen.

  • Collin Burnell

    Sometimes I find it very weird to be a Nissan Altima Hybrid driver.

  • Shines

    Geeze – too much Nissan bashing going on here. If you look at the Hybrid Dashboard article you see that Nissan has sold more Altima hybrids than all of GMs different “hybrid” models combined. So far no major auto company has come out with a production electric vehicle. I still can’t see a big oil conspiracy. If I was making windfall profits I wouldn’t be giving it to auto companies. Fact is hybrids still use oil. I still haven’t heard of an electric (battery technology) that goes more than 120 miles on a charge. As oil prices continue to climb and battery and ultra-capacitor technology improves, we’ll see better hybrids and eventally viable electrics.

  • thomas C gray

    Notice the stupidity of the swappable battery pack : it maximizes the one thing that stops anyone from building a practical electric car – the cost of the battery pack. Imagine a person travelling across the country. Each day, he will require about 5 to 10 battery swap. That means the system must support each such traveller with that many battery packs. Plus the enormous infrastructure costs. I don’t think they can economically justify their scheme even with $12 gasoline. The only thing else he’s promised is basically another EV-1. Gee, that must be tough to engineer. And he won’t even be able to produce that before the far more sophisticated and practical Volt comes to market. Sure, I’m going to be inconvenienced with his swappable battery car and a hostage to a lifelong contract with a monopolisitc company provider thru his lease agreement. Sure I am.

  • Old Bald Guy

    I agree that hybrids are great … especially now with the skyrocketing price of gas. I just bought a 2008 Prius and went from 18 mpg (my SUV) to 52 mpg (the Prius).

    I would love to have all electric … but it needs to be able to go more than the 40 miles you and many others talk about. That won’t get me to work and back one time. I live the the Dallas/Ft. Worth metro and 40 miles won’t get you very far at all. To visit my daughter is closer to 200 miles.

    Give us a 200 mile range and you won’t be able to make them fast enough.

  • Old Bald Guy

    Nissan Altima hybrid … check Nissan’s sources and you will learn that the Altima hybrid is a Toyota Camry hybrid under the hood.

  • steved28

    Nissan makes no secrets about the Toyota technology in the hybrid. They told me when I purchased one. It still uses the Nissan 2.5L ICE and is much more fun to drive than a Camry IMO. I only wish at this point more manufacturers used the Toyota drive system, it’s wonderful.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Shines and OBG:
    All the major US and Japanese auto manufacturers made production Electric Vehicles in the late ’90′s. Nissan made its Li-ion powered Altra and the Hyper-mini, Honda – the EV+, GM – the EV1 and S-10EV, Toyota – the RAV4EV, Ford – the Ranger EV and the Think, Chrysler – the EPIC. Some, got over 100 miles per charge in normal driving (I got 160 miles once with the EV1 – but the last 40 miles were very slow)
    The only problem with these cars was that they were mainly released in California and they didn’t survive the crusher they were put in after their leases were up.
    Tesla has an EV in production today that goes over 200 miles on a charge.

  • Danf

    The technology exists right now in fact it has been around for over 10 years to have plug in cars. All the hybrid cars now on the market use Ovonic NiMh battery packs. But guess what, Chevron owns Ovonic Battery Corporation (and more important the patent) and is not going to allow any plug in NiMh based cars in the US until the patent is expired. No need to cut into those oil profits.

    This is the only reason you do not see any further development of NiMh systems. It is true that NiMh has a shorter range around 80- 120 miles (about half of Lithium Ion) but that range would take care of the daily commutes of 90% of the population. Lithium Ion is a much more expensive battery system.

  • katie & erica

    DUDE YOU PPL ARE SMART!..We agree with ya! THE OIL COMPANIES ARE CHEATING US OUT OF OUR MONEY…………………………………………

    those rude stupid ppl.

  • Hilton (Tony) Vidrine

    It’s too bad more people aren’t in hybrids. Also, it’s to bad you can’t buy most green cars unless you live in New York or California.

  • Richard Poor

    One of the RAV4-EV’s that survived the shredder is on the road with the owner claiming 80 miles per charge, no biggie at all. Allegedly putting a 40HP generator under the hood makes the car a 50 MPG PHEV with 80 mile all electric range and 500 miles on a ten gallon gas tank. So how hard is that for Toyota? Somebody is not telling the truth. The RAV4-EV is on U-tube.
    Subaru could remove the AWD transfer case, provide an electric motor for the front wheels, provide an electric motor for the rear wheels, put a 40HP 2 cylinder generator under the hood and put the batteries where the AWD case used to be. How hard is that?
    How many auto manufacturers got offers they could not refuse?

  • Ur face is hideous

    ahahahahahaha that car looks soooo cool

  • Save the Electric car!

    Doesn’t anyone remember the EV1, RAV4 EV, Chevy S10 electric??? Those were real world electric vehicles that had the potential to destroy the oil industry. If it wasn’t for the astronomical profits of oil companies, those cars would not have been crushed and more than 25% of us would be zero emissions. Chevron bought Ovonics (manufacturer of the NiMH technology that was allowing 200+ miles to each charge) and only released a trickling stream of the revolutionary technology, or just enough to ensure NO mass-production full-electric vehicles ever made it. Their patent expires in 2013. I’ll take 2010 anyday with compact Lithium Ion under the hood!

  • roy coleman

    do you realize how much gas’ a 40 hp generator will require, to run. one would probably go in the hole here, buying gas’ for the generator.

    why not use a regular’ say nissan, front wheel drive’ 1.6 engine, that will presently get abt 40 miles to the gal, on the highway. remove the alternator,redesign the alternator’ where by, a single shaft’ with a double pulley, could run the first four alternators. then the second pulley’ running by belt to another, shaft that is also running four alternators. for a total of seven alternators, that are continously feeding’ approx 850 amps of power to the staorage battery or batteries. alternator one would remain, as it was designed to operate, the car originally.

    then thru a series of switches and controller, the car when fully’ charged electrically, would shut down the gas engine and engage the electric drive, until battery use is down to preset level, than revert back to gas, beginning process all over again. i am going to say’ that you are looking at an easy 100 miles to the gal.

    this would not be a hybrid car, each unit would be independant of the other. one would have to know the size of the electric drive motor, and it’s requirement pertaining to electrical supply designed to charge the battery, within a certain time period.

  • phil

    no i think they are controled by oil companys or scared this cars will need no maint.and thats why they took them away from all the celebs that owned them .