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Nissan EV for rent in 2010

Short circuit: Nissan's Mixim concept electric vehicle.

Europcar to add Nissan’s new electric vehicle to hire fleet in Australia next year

29 May 2009

EUROPCAR has declared it will be the first major car hire company in Australia and New Zealand to offer electric vehicles (EVs) in its fleet, as early as next year.

The announcement, made yesterday (May 28) by Europcar Australia, comes as a shock to both the Australian automotive industry and Nissan Australia, which has committed to releasing its first EV here in 2012, but was unaware of the local Europcar plan when contacted by GoAuto this week.

The surprise news follows the announcement of a global ‘zero-emission vehicle partnership’ between Nissan and Europcar, Europe’s largest car rental company, the previous day (May 27), when Nissan committed to making available its forthcoming EV to Europcar customers in France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Portugal, the UK, Australia and New Zealand in 2010.

The same year will see Nissan’s first EV released in Japan and the US, before the Nissan-Europcar deal is extended to countries outside Europe and Australia/NZ and the vehicle officially goes on sale to the public globally in 2012.

Nissan’s first EV employs all-electric drive technology (including a laminated lithium ion battery pack developed by NEC, which is claimed to extend its driving range to 160km) similar to that of the Nissan Mixim concept car.

To be unveiled in concept guise in the US in August before being revealed in near-production form at the Tokyo motor show in October, it will be a five-seater, five-door family hatchback that Nissan Australia hopes to price from below $30,000.

12 center imageFrom top: Nissan Mixim concept, Holden Volt, Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

Nissan revealed two weeks ago that it would manufacture EVs vehicles at its Oppama plant in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture from around October 2010, with initial annual EV capacity of 50,000 vehicles. All-electric small crossovers and commercial vehicles from Nissan will follow.

While General Motors has committed to selling the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, badged as a Holden, in Australia from 2012, Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV is the first EV to receive official federal Australian Design Rule (ADR) certification.

Initial government and business fleet field testing of two examples of Mitsubishi’s electric i-car has already taken place in Australia and is now being done in New Zealand, before the i-MiEV enters volume production in Japan in August.

Mitsubishi Australia will import more i-MiEVs for longer-term field tests later this year, but is yet to formalise any deals with fleets – including hire car companies – and is yet to commit to the public release of the i-MiEV in Australia.

GoAuto understands that a guaranteed supply of the i-MiEV, initial production of which will be limited, is the only thing preventing the car’s release here.

Mitsubishi Australia head of corporate communications Lenore Fletcher said: “Were we to get vehicles here tomorrow we could sell them.

“Manufacturing volume at the start will be small, so it really is a question of supply and of approval from MMC. When we get vehicles is up to MMC, and we’re discussing that with them now. We can’t make a commitment because the program is not approved.” With no commitment from Mitsubishi to make the i-MiEV available to fleets or the public, it now appears the Europcar deal will see Nissan’s EV become the first electric car to become available to the public, albeit only as a rental car initially.

Europcar Australia and New Zealand group marketing manager Ashley Jurberg told GoAuto that between 40 and 50 Nissan EVs, which will be supplied direct from Nissan Motor Co but are yet to receive ADR approval, will be added to the company’s rental fleet in major Australian metropolitan areas within 18 months.

Details of Nissan’s EV rental arrangement will be finalised in two weeks at a meeting in Paris, where both Europcar and Renault-Nissan are headquartered. Executives from both companies are expected to prioritise the rollout in response to requests for the vehicles from various nations.

Mr Jurberg said the rollout of Nissan EVs would be fast-tracked by Europcar Australia and New Zealand, which are wholly-owned subsidiaries of Europcar rather franchises, as is the case in many countries.

“We’ve been working on this for six months and received the heads-up from Nissan and Europcar earlier than expected, so we’re pleased to be able to jump the gun to be among the first countries to offer electric vehicles,” he said.

“We won’t know all the details for another two weeks but my understanding is cars will arrive here from Europe towards the end of next year – they’re 12 to 18 months away unless.

“They will be initially available in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Auckland, and we will gauge the response before expanding to other locations.” Mr Jurberg said his company had yet to speak with Nissan Australia or EV infrastructure providers such as Better Place, which has formed a partnership with AGL Energy and Macquarie Capital Group to establish an EV recharging network in Australia. But he confirmed recharging facilities would be in place before the vehicles were available for lease.

He said the Nissan EV would be offered at competitive rental prices to encourage use.

“We’ll be making the proposition of renting an electric car as attractive as possible for customers to encourage widespread use,” said Mr Jurberg.

“This will give our customers the means to significantly reduce their carbon emissions when they rent a vehicle from us.

“The partnership between Europcar and Nissan will deliver new standards in eco-motoring for companies and individuals who want to actively reduce these emission levels,” he said.

Owned by French investment company Eurazeo, Europcar says it is the European leader in passenger car and light utility vehicle rentals, which 8000 employees and a fleet exceeding 225,000 vehicles globally Europcar and US market leader Enterprise Rent-A-Car joined forces in September 2008, forming a strategic alliance that is claimed to be the world’s largest car rental network, with more than 1.2 million vehicles and 13,000 locations around the world.

Europcar is the third-largest rental car company in Australia and New Zealand behind Avis and Hertz, with more than 800 employees, 13,000 vehicles and 110 locations. The Nissan EV will join Audi’s frugal A3 1.9 TDIe in Europcar’s local fleet.

The Nissan-Renault alliance chief Carlos Ghosn, meantime, has predicted that EVs could form up to 10 per cent of the globe’s car park by 2020 and says that fully electric vehicles are a better solution to hybrids, fuel cell vehicles or the industrial-scale production of biofuels, especially in the developing markets that are expected to produce the largest growth in demand for new vehicles.

Renault-Nissan has signed two formal agreements in Europe – with Portugal and Monaco – to establish infrastructure, incentives and education programs for EVs, and has begun similar initiatives in Kanagawa Prefecture and Yokohama in Japan, as well as in Israel, Denmark, Portugal, Monaco, UK, France, Switzerland, Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore and China.

It says it is discussing ways to promote zero-emission mobility and an EV infrastructure in the US and has formed partnerships with 27 governments, cities and other organisations including Tennessee, Oregon, Sonoma County, San Diego, Tucson, Phoenix, Seattle and Raleigh.

Nissan Australia has held initial EV infrastructure discussions with the NSW government and the cities of Sydney and Melbourne, while the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) has established an EV taskforce to resolve issues including charging infrastructure, design and certification standards, battery disposal and recycling, and guidelines for emergency services in the event of collisions.

Nissan corporate communications manager Jeff Fisher confirmed Nissan Australia would meet with Europcar and other rental car companies in the coming weeks and was keen to fast-track the availability of its EV in Australia.

“It is a credit to Nissan and organisations like Better Place that Australia is up there in the global environment in terms of electric vehicles, despite being a relatively small and remote country,” he said.

“It is pleasing to see there has been great government and public response to EVs here and Australia’s reputation as an early adopter of technology such as this puts it in line to be at the forefront of its rollout.”

Read more:

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Nissan locks in EV

Taskforce paves the way for EVs in Australia

Toyota spills red ink for first time

Nissan to go ‘mainstream’ with electric cars

Nissan Oz commits to all-electric car by 2012

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