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Nissan Ariya could eclipse Leaf as best-selling EV

Number one: While the Leaf hatchback is currently the world’s best-selling battery-electric vehicle, Nissan believes the incoming zero-emissions Ariya SUV could overtake it.

Global swing towards SUVs puts Nissan’s incoming mid-size pure EV in hot seat

31 Oct 2019


NISSAN is hopeful the production version of the Ariya Concept due out in 2021 can dethrone the Leaf as the world’s best-selling battery-electric vehicle (BEV) over time.


According to Nissan Motor Company’s head of EV strategy, Asako Hoshino, the Ariya will also have what it takes to put the brand back at the forefront of EV technology, offering front- and all-wheel-drive configurations for the first time, with the latter also gaining a second motor on the rear axle to provide dramatically stronger performance and dynamics compared to today’s Leaf.


“Of course (I expect it to be our best-selling EV),” she told journalists at last week’s Tokyo motor show. “In countries where bigger-sized SUVs are popular, I think the Ariya will be a big hit, but in countries where smaller vehicles dominate, the Leaf will be the better-selling EV.”


One of the stars of last week’s native automotive showcase, the Mazda CX-5-sized SUV is set to debut in production guise in about the third quarter of next year at a special exhibition pavilion currently being erected near Nissan’s global headquarters in Yokohama.


Introducing with it the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s next-generation BEV architecture, the Ariya may arrive in Australia as soon as 2021.


While stopping shy of officially confirming any pending production version of the Ariya for Australia, Nissan Australia managing director Stephen Leste, questioned the wisdom of not adding such a transformative model to his range should it be made available.


“From the start of the Gen-2 Leaf (launched in the middle of this year in Australia), we’ve been very successful in the first few months, with a ton of private consumer, government and fleet interest for EVs, and that’s continuing to grow,” he said.


“So, from our stand point, I don’t see where we leave out the opportunity for EV and electrification in Australia. I think there’s lots of opportunity for EV.


“Any time there is a significant moment of change, there is hesitation around these ideas. But we’ve been through this now, we’ve been on this journey, and other countries around the world have been well down the track with changing and movement.”


Mr Lester also believes Australia is especially uniquely placed to embrace BEVs – once people realise the old limitations of range and infrastructure are evaporating. As such, Nissan plans to electrify (with electric-hybrid models under the e-Power badge) 30 per cent of its portfolio over the next four years.


“We’ve got a country with the highest percentage of private solar installations in their private homes, more homes with driveways and therefore storage charging,” he said.


“And all of this infrastructure is already there and invisible within all of the current set-up of cities, towns and the greater part of the country.


“And whilst we get very hot weather, we don’t get the opposing very cold weather, and this makes it a very natural haven for EVs down the road.


“And as performance and range continue to improve, we continue to knock down the traditional EV objections.”


While Nissan has not yet revealed any technical specifics surrounding the Ariya, Nissan’s head of EV operations, Hugues Desmarchelier, promises it will be fiercely competitive against any comparably priced BEV, substantially boosting the SUVs chances of becoming a huge hit.


“We will not reveal any specifications today, but we are targeting impressive range, up to seven days of normal usage without charging,” he said.


“Also, it’s not only a two-wheel-drive, but also an all-wheel-drive… where you add another motor, giving you much more precision and very high performance… very strong acceleration…. as well balance and handling which is astonishing, even in terrible conditions like snow.”


Nissan’s head of product planning, Ivan Espinosa, also revealed that the Ariya’s packaging is a breakthrough that the Alliance fully intends to exploit over time.


“It is a dedicated EV platform, and what this brings is a lot of freedom,” he said. “The freedom it gives to packaging is amazing.


“We were able to push the wheels all the way out and the overhangs are very short, and that gives impressive cabin room, so you feel like you are in a D-segment class car when overall size-wise the vehicle is closer to the C-segment.


“You have a full flat floor, and all the air-con and ducts are now outside where there used to be an engine bay, giving us a lot of freedom to develop things.


“The other beauty of our new dedicated platform is that it is modular, allowing us to play with different battery sizes, accommodate different powertrain and motor combinations, and it becomes scalable, allowing us to play for the future not only in this vehicle but also some other vehicles to come.”  


In time, the Ariya’s architecture is likely to migrate down to the Leaf to create the all-new third-generation version of the historic five-door hatchback, bringing with wholesale improvements designed to keep Nissan’s first modern EV competitive against the likes of the Volkswagen ID.3.


Furthermore, with Renault expected to spring the next-generation Zoe supermini off the same Ariya component set sometime over the next few years, Nissan may eventually choose to offer a sub-Leaf, Micra-sized EV itself for the first time.


“The Ariya Concept is an Alliance platform, so we share the platform with Renault,” Ms Hoshino said, “and of course if we find any opportunity to share any platform that is also good for us, we will take it.”


That said, she believes that it will still be many years before Nissan abandons the internal-combustion engine (ICE) for electrification altogether.


“Our passion is to make the world all EV,” Ms Hoshino said. “But, in reality, in order to do that, it takes time, and so during this time period, we have to make money to sustain the company, and therefore we will keep producing ICE. That is the responsibility of Nissan to sustain our employees, plants, our relationship with society, etcetera.”

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