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Nissan Australia's electric blues

Low-range: Mixim is one EV that can't handle Australia's long distances.

Nissan admits its 2011 electric vehicle promise has limitations that excludes Oz

16 May 2008

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in PORTUGAL

NISSAN’S plan to sell EV electric vehicles in countries like Israel and Denmark from 2011 cannot include Australia for the time being because of issues with range and recharging infrastructure.

Speaking to GoAuto Media at the company’s Nissan 360 event in Portugal, the deputy general manager for Nissan’s Global Environmental Planning Office, Masanori Ueda, admitted that the EV’s limited range of 160km makes it impractical for Australian conditions.

“I think EVs are okay for a shorter daily drive. But for longer drives, we need to have some infrastructure,” he said.

Mr Ueda believes that a hybrid system consisting of either an internal combustion engine or even a fuel cell is a more manageable solution for Australia as a range extender for EVs, since it is not possible to blanket the land with recharging outlets.

“Selling (EVs) to big countries like Australia, and driving between city to city that are far away, is not (possible without) setting up a charging station… so a range extender (hybrid) is a better option (for Australia) than pure electric.” However, Mr Ueda would not reveal whether Nissan has committed to releasing a hybrid in Australia.

“We are studying both solutions… but it is not decided. We still have to work out the long-distance driving problem.” Despite the range issues, Nissan says it is absolutely dedicated to taking leadership in the development, implementation and sales of EVs from the start of the next decade.

In a move designed to leapfrog all competitors, Nissan has established a new company with NEC Corporation and NEC Tokin Corporation of Japan called Automotive Energy Supply Corporation (AESC).

12 center imageLeft: Nissan Pivo II.

Nissan says its lithium-ion batteries are twice as energy efficient as conventional cylindrical battery technology of the same type, are more compact for improved EV packaging and application, and are safer to boot.

“Compared with Nickel-metal hydride batteries, our lithium-ion batteries are 30 per cent smaller, much lighter and better performing – while offering double the range,” Mr Ueda explained.

Nevertheless, increasing battery performance while reducing costs is an AESC “top priority” before 2010, according to one Nissan engineer.

Mr Ueda warns that there are many variables affecting the performance of EVs despite the advances in lithium-ion battery technology.

“Range depends on driving conditions, using things like air-conditioning, and also – after a few years of use – deterioration of the batteries.

“Still, over 90 per cent of customers travel under 80km total every day, so for most of the people, 160km range is okay if it’s city driving.” Nissan-Renault said that mitigating range issues is one reason why it chose to sell its EVs in Denmark and Israel from 2011.

Both countries have favourable existing and upcoming recharging infrastructure, with Israel promising to have 500,000 outlets throughout the country.

Greater governmental support in the form of tax incentives for EV buyers is another reason.

Israel in particular is less vulnerable statistically to range issues, as 90 per cent of car owners drive less than 70km per day while all major urban centres are within 150km.

Within eight years, Nissan hopes to have a family of different size EVs available globally, after mass-market expansion commences in 2012.

Recent concept vehicles that highlight the different EV applications include the Pivo II, Mixim and Cube Denki (Denki is Japanese for electric).

Nissan claims these concept vehicles prove Nissan’s desire to be number one in the EV world.

Read more:

First look: Nissan's electric Mixim


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