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Future models - Nissan - e-NV200

Detroit show: Nissan goes EV with van

On the road to Oz: The Nissan e-NV200 electric van concept shares its powertrain with the brand's pioneering Leaf hatchback.

Nissan takes a Leaf out of its own book for all-electric load lugger bound for Oz

Nissan logo10 Jan 2012

A NISSAN Leaf for cargo carriers – the all-electric e-NV200 van – is under serious consideration for Australia after its global release next year.

Unveiled in concept form today at the Detroit motor show, the electric load-lugger is expected to become one of four EVs in Nissan Australia’s stable by about 2014, alongside the Leaf small hatchback, an Infiniti sedan with battery power and an EV sports coupe.

While it remains to be seen if Nissan will import the standard NV200 van in its petrol format in the hotly contested delivery vehicle market that is the increasing focus of Chinese manufacturers, the electric version might make it Down Under as Nissan pushes the case for all-electric motoring around the world.

The standard van – a small, sub-HiAce delivery one-box van with workhorse and passenger variants – was launched in 2009 and is already sold in 40 markets, including Japan, the United States, Europe and China.

The vehicle was famously announced as the winner of New York’s ‘Taxi of Tomorrow’ contract that will see 13,000 of the vehicles – made in Mexico with 2.0-litre petrol engines and dedicated taxi interior fit-out – replace the current fleet of yellow cabs across America’s biggest city over the next few years.

Ultimately, some of those vehicles will be the electric e-NV200, although only a handful in the short term because a short driving range of about 120km and long charging time – even with a fast charger – will limit its effectiveness.

12 center imageThe e-NV200 Concept shown at the Detroit show is equipped with the same electric powertrain as the Leaf hatchback that goes on sale in Australia about June at $51,500.

Drawing power from 48 lithium-ion battery cells holding 24kWh of power, the e-NV200 employs an 80kW/280Nm AC motor driving the front wheels through a single-speed reducer.

The front fascia of the electric version, complete with Leaf-style hatch in the nose for the plug-in charger, has been restyled with a family resemblance to Leaf, and is painted in the same signature aqua-blue colour.

Inside, the concept has been decked out as a passenger van, with two rows of seats and Leaf-type electric meters, as well as a touchscreen multifunction control tablet in the dash.

A prototype has been on the road since last year in Japan, where Japan Post has been giving the vehicle a workout in Yokohama, while other trials are now starting with FedEx in London and – soon – the US.

The vehicle is seen as ideal for defined base-to-base delivery runs in urban areas, where the operator knows the daily requirements.

Nissan’s global partner Renault is also getting into the electric van market with its Kangoo Express ZE (zero emissions), targeting customers such as the French postal service.

Nissan corporate vice-president Hideto Murakami said the vehicle would have a driving range similar to the Leaf, while payload and cargo space would offer the same level as the current NV200, which is the top seller in its class in Japan.

“The production version would be targeted mainly at businesses, but also at private users or families in major regions,” he said.

“As a potential mass-production vehicle, Nissan e-NV200 Concept would also provide a reduction in operating costs compared to current internal combustion engine vehicles.

“A vehicle like the Nissan e-NV200 Concept would energise the current compact van market in more ways than one – helping improve the quality of urban life and providing a smart financial investment for large and small businesses alike.” Nissan says the payload of the e-NV200 would be the same as the standard petrol version, despite the weight of the battery pack.

Unlike many heavier, more truck-style vans, the NV200 has a car-like monocoque design, which reduces weight for greater fuel efficiency.

Although Australia has not been specifically named as a market for the e-NV200, Nissan Australia has confirmed it is looking at the electric version of the van as a mate to the Leaf.

But the standard petrol version is unlikely, as the business case is tough in what amounts to a small potential market in a segment made increasingly competitive by low-cost manufacturers in South Korea and China.

The NV200 was all set for an Australian introduction before the global financial crisis, but Nissan Australia chose to pull back and concentrate on core products when the world economy collapsed.

The bigger Nissan NV350 – unveiled at this year’s Tokyo motor show – might be a contender to go up against the market-leading HiAce and Hyundai iLoad, although that market is also facing new challenges with the arrival of cheap vans from Chinese manufacturers Joylong and JAC this year.

In the meantime, Nissan is preparing to take customer orders for Leaf from February ahead of its mid-year rollout in Australia.

The company has already presented 16 of the EVs to the Victorian government for its electric vehicle trial, with one going to GoAuto.

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