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Nissan planning greener LCVs

Green with NV: Nissan’s e-NV200 is a fully electric van and it could be joined by more green-focused LCVs soon.

Titan and other Nissan LCVs could gain e-Power or fuel-cell tech

Nissan logo10 Feb 2018

By TIM NICHOLSON in SINGAPORE

NISSAN is evaluating range-extender hybrid, biofuel and hydrogen fuel-cell powertrains for its future light-commercial vehicles, including the full-size Titan truck.

The Japanese car-maker brought together a number of high-ranking executives from the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance as well as academic and corporate stakeholders from the Asia-Pacific and Oceania regions for its Nissan Futures event in Singapore last week to discuss the future of e-mobility and autonomous motoring.

When asked by GoAuto about future powertrain options for Nissan’s LCV range, specifically the Titan truck, vice-president and alliance global director, general manager of the Nissan Research Centre, Kazuhiro Doi, highlighted three alternatives to internal combustion engines.

“I think one of the possible solutions is e-Power-type of electrification,” he said. “We can improve the efficiency of the gasoline engine or diesel engine more by supporting the electrified technologies.”

Nissan’s e-Power technology is essentially a hybrid system that uses an electric motor to drive the wheels, in a similar way to the Holden Volt, but it is not a plug-in hybrid and relies entirely on a small-capacity petrol engine and regenerative braking to keep its battery pack topped up.

It is currently offered on the Serena MPV and the Note light hatchback that are not offered in Australia, but Nissan has announced that it will roll out more e-Power models in the coming years.

“The other is maybe fuel-cell type of technologies,” he added. “It is ok to use biofuel or it is ok also to use hydrogen. Because in the case of hydrogen, the issue is the distribution. But if that is fleet use, we can have … a hydrogen station for fleet business use.

“Another issue is the hydrogen tank. In case of the hydrogen tank, we just increase the capacity. And even though we increase the capacity of the hydrogen tank, the weight itself has not changed, it is just carrying the hydrogen. But in the case of the battery, if we double the battery, the weight is going to be doubled. That is the critical difference.”

Mr Doi also suggested the use of biofuel as another environmentally friendly alternative for LCVs, and added that the cost was still too high to roll out hydrogen tech now.

“In the case of biofuel, the availability of energy is much, much easier than hydrogen. Maybe in that sense, it may be more practical. And I believe, technology-wise, both (biofuel and hydrogen fuel-cell) of them are possible.

“The question is how we can commercialise it. To commercialise it, we still need to have a breakthrough about the cost. Not only the technology but also the distribution.”

Biofuels are liquid fuels that have been derived from other materials such as waste plant and animal matter.

In 2016, Nissan revealed its e-Bio Fuel-Cell Prototype that uses a special fuel-cell that was developed using solid oxide electrolyte in place of noble metals and converted gaseous hydrogen into electricity to charge a 24kW battery which powered an electric drive motor.

Nissan sells a number of LCVs around the world, including the Navara and Titan pick-ups, the NV200/300/400 and fully electric e-NV200 vans, and the NT400 light truck.

Mr Doi said he did not believe heavy-duty trucks should use battery electric technology as their power source, as they would be too heavy.

“Electric vehicles cannot cover everything. Usually heavy-duty truck puts lots of load and the vehicle itself is heavy. I think it is not a good idea to put tonnes of battery on the heavy truck.

“Is that good idea to put more and more heavy stuff on the vehicle? It’s something strange. Also heavy trucks run long mileage. It is better to have some other alternative solutions.”

Late last year Tesla revealed its all-electric Semi truck that uses four electric motors, which the company claims can cover a distance ranging from 483 to 805km on a single charge.

Nissan Motor Asia Pacific regional vice-president of marketing and sales, Asia and Oceania Vincent Wijnen told GoAuto that the company was looking at expanding its electrified LCV offerings.

“We are selling a lot of LCVs globally, but it’s very different per region,” he said in Singapore. “In this region, including Australia, I don’t think it has been necessarily the focus, with the exception of utes or pick-ups. But if you discount that and look at vans or small trucks, compared to other regions we have not really been focusing on it.”

He added that there was opportunity to look at other offerings and technologies from Nissan’s alliance partners.

“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. Because we have the products in our line-up,” he said.

“We are part of an alliance now, so accessibility to assets or complete products or sharing components is much easier when you are that size.

“So I think it is one of the things we need to, we are looking at going forward to make sure. Because it is an opportunity that we are not today necessarily exploiting fully.”

Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Stephen Lester said he was open to evaluating electrified LCVs for Australia, such as the e-NV200, but it would have to make economic sense for the brand.

“As I have told the product team numerous times, there is not a product that we should not be considering at least looking at,” he told GoAuto. “It all comes back to commercial viability, the ability to meet the regulations of the local government for homologation and to bring a product in that meets the safety and performance expectations and the fit for purpose expectations of Australian consumers.”

Meanwhile, Mr Lester said there was no update on the business case for the full-size Titan truck for Australia, but added that he believed such a vehicle could be successful.

“There is no secret that I think that there is opportunity in Australia for the car. This is one of the largest ute markets in the world. But there are no major players there from a significant volume perspective and right now anyway I know there has been speculation, but the reality is I think Titan could be a vehicle that, if we can get it here to Australia, then it will work.”

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