Nissan Leaf breaks from Big Three mold | The American Ceramic Society

Nissan Leaf breaks from Big Three mold


On the heels of last week’s post about Nissan’s new plug-in hybrid, The Wall Street Journal reported that Nissan is the only car manufacturer out of Japan’s Big Three (Toyota, Honda, Nissan) that appears to be staking its future on full electric cars.

Unlike hybrids, full on electric cars will only travel as far as their battery packs allow. Honda and Toyota expressed skepticism over the technology, while Nissan is fully embracing it.

Critics of all-electric cars cite the high cost of batteries and the likely need for sizable government subsidies and incentives to make all-electric battery cars affordable. The lack of a wide network of battery-charging stations also could be an impediment.

Both Toyota and Honda say a full-electric car may work for certain consumers if they are willing to treat it as a town car with limited driving range. They also say the ultimate green car over the long run will be hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, which they believe will be more efficient than full-electric battery cars. Fuel-cell cars would create their own electricity through a reaction between hydrogen and oxygen.

Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s CEO, acknowledged his company was late to jump onto the hybrid bandwagon, and now plans to concentrate on battery-only cars. “We have had a period where we have had to catch up, but now we will exercise our technological power,” he said. “We are aiming for leadership in [electric vehicles].”

Nissan believes it has found a way to make electric cars, such as the Leaf, nearly as affordable as a gasoline-fueled compact cars. By selling it without its on-board battery pack, Nissan may lease the battery pack to the customer for an affordable month fee, among other means, its executives said.

But Nissan executives also stressed that government support is necessary to launch the Leaf, which it aims to sell world-wide in 2012.

“We are asking governments to cover [the investment] up to the point when we can reach volume momentum—this will take several years,” said Carlos Tavares, who heads Nissan’s Americas operations. Mr. Ghosn estimated that this would take three to four years.

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