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Nissan Oz could double electric offerings

Note taken: Although Nissan Australia has decided not to import the current e-Note car, a next-generation version could land in showrooms to steal sales away from the Toyota Prius C.

EV expansion to boost Nissan range globally and locally, Leaf SUV decided soon

Nissan logo12 Sep 2017

By DANIEL DeGASPERI in TOKYO

NISSAN Australia could soon double its electric vehicle (EV) line-up, as the Japanese car-maker edges towards a decision on importing the Toyota Prius C-rivalling e-Note and producing a battery-powered SUV for the global market.

Several executives, speaking at the reveal of the new Leaf in Japan last week, told GoAuto that there was now a discussion around bringing the e-Note to Australia, while in the mid-term the company would use plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) technology from new Renault-Nissan Alliance partner, Mitsubishi.

It would all be part of a plan to increasingly electrify the Nissan line-up, including with an imminent decision on a crossover EV, as the price of a vehicle with a battery package and electric motor is forecast to fall to the same level as internal combustion engine (ICE) equivalents by 2025.

“We can’t talk about future products, but the intention is to further develop electrification within the range, in different formats,” Nissan Motor Corporation (NMCo) regional sales and marketing executive Vincent Wijnen told GoAuto.

“We have the Leaf as the ultimate EV, but we also have the e-Note which is basically the same technology as the Leaf … it just has a small engine to basically charge the battery.” Asked whether the e-Note should come to Australia, Mr Wijen replied: “All of those things are areas that we are looking at … so there are different possibilities.” The e-Note uses a 58kW/103Nm 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine as a generator to help recharge the battery pack for the electric motor, both of which are derived from the previous-generation Leaf, returning an official combined-cycle fuel consumption of 2.7 litres per 100 kilometres.

Former Nissan Australia managing director Richard Emery has previously said that production of the e-Note – from the same Oppama, Japan, factory that produces Leaf – is at capacity, but a new model was two years away.

It now appears that, with the imminent start of new Nissan Australia managing director Stephen Lester, any models that could potentially help reverse a sharp decline in sales volume for the car-maker in this market, would be on the cards.

Further along, both NMCo head of Asia & Oceania Yutaka Sanada, and Nissan Australia product management general management Chris Shultz, expressed a strong inclination and desire to install Mitsubishi PHEV technology into Nissans.

“Nissan has an Alliance with Renault and also with Mitsubishi,” Mr Sanada started.

“Mitsubishi has plug-in hybrid systems and experience, so I think as an Alliance we have a lot of things, so automatically we are constantly in communication (about) existing assets.

“Nissan has a strong intention to be an EV leader, so we are of course looking at an expansion of the (EV) line-up.” Mr Shultz was more specific, hinting that a battery-powered X-Trail could be the most obvious outcome of Mitsubishi joining the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

“In Europe we’ve got plug-in powertrains, we have the Alliance now where we can access Renault powertrains and Mitsubishi have the plug-in Outlander, so I think there are a lot of different powertrains on the table,” he said.

“When you look at how X-Trail globally is one of the biggest selling cars, it makes sense in the future to make that a hybrid and tap into some of that.” It may, however, be a case that a PHEV badge is attached to the back of a Nissan SUV before it entirely ditches petrol or diesel power.

At the 2012 Paris motor show the company previewed its Terra SUV concept as an EV companion for the Leaf, however nothing has emerged – although a final decision is now imminent.

“We have a lot of Nissan crossovers and Nissan SUVs, and it’s logical that we are thinking about having in our line-up an EV crossover,” Nissan Motor Corporation executive vice president Daniele Schillaci told GoAuto.

“Do we have a concrete plan today? The answer is ‘no’. But it’s natural given the DNA of Nissan where crossover is very strong, that we are thinking to transfer our EV knowledge also in that area.

“I will tell you more at a new time, it’s not so long in terms of idea, but a decision is not taken. When you sign the project, you put it in the pipeline, but today we are thinking about how. From that point to ‘yes we have a (launch) date’, is still a little bit of time.” It has long been rumoured that Nissan would create a ‘family’ around the Leaf brand to rival that of BMW i and the Toyota Prius.

However, Mr Schillaci is thinking further ahead than a narrow group of electrified models, stating: “What will trigger the acceleration of the EV market is the date of the cost of EV technology will be the same as ICE.

“This tipping point will come around 2025 – and then the customer, at the same price between a petrol engine and an EV, would probably select an EV because it’ s much more fun to drive and much more high-tech.

“But before this tipping point, we are seeing already a market like China, a very sharp acceleration of the EV market. So we think at Nissan with the new Leaf and the models that will come, will strengthen our leadership in the EV market.” Currently, Nissan Australia has the Pathfinder Hybrid and, from late 2018, the new-generation Leaf as its sole battery-powered models. However, an extended-range Leaf has already been announced – but not yet detailed – while the addition of e-Note would double its number of electric motor-equipped models.

Globally Nissan also currently produces the e-NV200 medium van, however Mr Shultz has all but ruled out even the ICE-equipped versions of the commercial vehicle coming to Australia.

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