Many of the challenges affecting the electric vehicle segment don’t seem to perturb Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.
In an interview with Reuters’ Fred Katayama, Ghosn indicated that the company sets its EV strategy based on consumer need and emission regulations. Rising issues such as the Apple car rumor and fluctuating oil prices seem to have little influence on the company’s plans.
For any company planning to debut a car in the next five years, including Apple, Ghosn said it must be able to “marry” current standards with new technologies.
“What’s important is not only the technology of the future, but how you can keep the technology of today attractive and competitive,” remarked Ghosn. While carmakers are looking forward to develop technology for connectivity, autonomous drive and low emissions, he said they still must incorporate “the challenges of today, which are nice design, safety, driving performance, serviceability of the car, existing of a network.”
And automakers, not tech companies, are better suited to this task.
“The fact that some tech companies are interested into helping into the transformation of the car into something with additional value, more attractiveness, is great,” Ghosn said. “I still think the carmaker, particular carmakers who are ready to take the challenge, will be the best equipped in order to deliver what consumer’s want.”
It’s also clear which technology Ghosn thinks will be most effective as a zero emission product, who told Katayama:
The “electric car is the most affordable one and the one which is ready to be used.”
But Ghosn doesn’t feel growth of the electric car segment is tied solely to increases in battery range. Instead, the main sales driver will be from a strong infrastructure.
“We have improved the range of the [Nissan] Leaf, and it’s going to continue to get better and better by enhancing the battery and enhancing the cars,” he said. But “you’re not going to solve this issue by giving a much, much bigger range for the car. There is also a complement to this issue, which is the charging infrastructure.
“I mean, if you don’t know where to charge your car, no matter how much range you have, you’ll always find yourself in a situation where you’re going to be anxious about, ‘Is my car going to be driving me where I want to go?’
“So, yes, increasing the range is one challenge, and we’re tackling it. But there is another challenges is making sure there is a solid charging infrastructure on the ground.”
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Though he doesn’t name them directly, these comments appear targeted towards fuel cell vehicles. With an estimate range of 270 miles, the hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai can far outdrive the 84-mile range on the 2015 Leaf. However, hydrogen fueling stations are still sparsely located.
Ghosn also appeared to be fairly unconcerned over fluctuating oil prices, which he said were too volatile to base an EV business plan on.
“As you know, price of oil nobody can predict,” explained Ghosn. “Today’s low, tomorrow nobody knows. Three years ago we had the barrel at $100, today it’s at $40. Nobody knows where it’s going to be three years down the road. So you can’t build a strategy on the cheap or expensive oil.”
For Ghosn, this is a guarantee: emission regulations will continue to get tighter. And that’s a solid bet to build his EV plan on.
“It’s not only so much the price of oil which is driving electric car,” Ghosn said. “It’s particularly the strict emissions regulation, which is going to get stiffer and stricter into the future, that is driving the technology of zero emission and very low emission.”