Nissan Looks Beyond Its First Electric Car

Nissan released an image yesterday of a light commercial electric vehicle concept. It’s just a sketch, but the drawing signals that Nissan is moving forward with plans to build an entire electric vehicle program—rather than focusing on a single vehicle.

So far, most of Nissan’s electric plans have focused on the all-electric five-seat Nissan Leaf, which will make its US debut in late 2010, followed by a European release in 2011 and a global rollout in 2012. The new sketch depicts a small multi-purpose commercial van—something like a beefed-up Nissan Leaf for businesses. Clearly targeting congested European cities, Nissan said, “The low-cost multi-purpose vehicle would allow…van and taxi drivers to enter urban areas where CO2 emissions are restricted.”

The vehicle is based on the Nissan NV200 Vanette, which was launched in Japan and Europe earlier this year. Small commercial vans—making frequent stops in an urban environment, and managed by a business that can schedule recharging—could be a natural entry-point for carmakers introducing all-electric vehicles. Ford’s first all-electric vehicle will be an electric version of the Transit Connect—shorter than a Ford Focus but with cargo capacity exceeding the space of many cargo vans. It has minivan-like sliding rear-side doors and can seat up to five passengers. The all-electric Transit Connect, which will launch in the US in the second half of 2010, is perfect for a florist, plumbing service, or other small business—especially one trying to earn points for being green.

Nissan NV200
Ford Transit Connect

Top: Nissan NV200
Bottom: Ford Transit Connect

The release of the drawing by Nissan indicates that an electric small commercial van could be the company’s next electric vehicle, following the Leaf. The company also has announced intentions to build a four-seat Infiniti electric compact car, as well as the improbable single-passenger Land Glider—a three-and-a-half feet wide, cocoon-shaped vehicle that can lean as much as 17 degrees when turning corners.

While most public attention will be placed on the first high-profile plug-in models, like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, the long-term viability of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles depends on building across multiple platforms. Speaking at yesterday’s Reuters Autos Summit in Detroit, Brent Dewar, chief of global operations for Chevrolet, confirmed that GM plans to “take the Volt technology to other products.”

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  • ex-EV1 driver

    This isn’t particularly encouraging. It sounds like the only option anyone is looking at for future generations of fuel efficient/alternative fuel vehicles are tiny 5-seaters. The Leaf can handle that just fine. What is needed is a fuel efficient vehicle that can handle 6 to 8 people (family of 4 to 6 plus grandparents). This could either be a full size wagon or a minivan. A diesel serial-hybrid PHEV power plant seems like it would be ideal but even a basic parallel-hybrid topology like the FEH would be better than is available today.
    Maybe this is a chance for Chrysler to get back into the electric transportation business with a hybrid mini-van, a genre they already do well in and have dabbled in before with their all-electric EPIC mini-van from the late ’90’s.

  • John Collard

    good to see Nissan is making a serious effort to come out with electric van. I’d like to see a two seater electric car for under $15K come out. Even a gas/electric would be great to have.

  • GFB

    CNG fuel is the way to go. CNG is American fuel with very low emissions that does not need the catalytic converter.

  • Mr.Bear

    Coal is also an “American fuel” and batteries don’t require emission control devices either.

    I don’t think I’ve seen a plumbing van that small. And somehow, I don’t image them driving around an EV will lower the plumbing bill.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Just like with oil, there’s only a finite amount of Natural Gas on our planet. It burns quite cleanly. However we’ll get the most miles out of what exists by burning it in an efficient, combined-cycle, co-generation power plant and running Battery Electric Vehicles off of it, rather than try to transport it and burn it in an inefficient Internal Combustion Engine in each vehicle.
    Using natural gas to produce electricity is a great step as we move toward sustainable energy sources that will last indefinitely. Burning it in ICE is just another waste of a valuable resource.

  • MQC

    Once sustainable advancements are made on battery technology, the electric powered vehicle will make all other alternate fuel options obselete. End of story!

  • Food for thought.

    What the heck is this? Goss132 This is really nice EV

    Where can I get one of those???

  • ex-EV1 driver

    What “sustainable advances” do you want? Li-ion batteries are made up of plentiful, recyclable, non-toxic materials. What else does it need to be? Let’s get going with building cars!

  • Amanda

    Wow. Goss132. Thanks for the link. That is the most amazing EV car I have ever seen. Thanks for posting it.

    I’m going to email this along.


    Burning CNG itself produces lower emissions. Unfortunately, compression stations used when moving the stuff through pipelines produces ridiculous high emissions and crazy amounts of noise. I believe the estimate on pollution from these things is that the compression stations in Texas produce more emissions than all registered cars in the area. What we will do for energy is disgusting.

    See/listen @:

  • Darren

    As a van driver, I think when low-emission commercial vehicles become more affordable with a wider range available these will truly be the vans of choice. Not only for the environmental benefits but for the cost savings on fuel, tax and insurance. These look really exciting, I can’t wait to see what the next generation of these will be like though!