12 new or redesigned models coming; inexpensive used Leafs to help convert doubters
Nissan Motor will launch 12 electric or electrified vehicles by 2022. It could either have new bespoke EV platforms or electrified variants of new or redesigned internal combustion platforms, executives said.
“We’re going to develop a broader portfolio,” Gareth Dunsmore, electric vehicle director for Nissan Europe, said. “We’re going to democratize electrification into internal combustion vehicles.”
Although some of the upcoming vehicles will be pure EVs, Nissan intends to use its “e-power” technology as a way to give people the feeling of EVs but without the range anxiety. The e-power system uses a small, fuel-efficient internal combustion engine to provide onboard charging to the battery pack. But only electric motors power the vehicle. Dunsmore said the subcompact Note e-power has had “phenomenal success” in Japan, calling it “a diesel killer.”
Electrified vehicles aside, Nissan is charging forward into pure electric vehicles. At the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan unveiled the IMx concept crossover (pictured at top) that is to go on sale in 2020. Nissan will be developing EV-modifiable internal combustion engine platforms and bespoke EV platforms in parallel, Dunsmore said.
Among the early arrivals in overseas markets is the e-NV200 small delivery van. Dunsmore noted that the e-NV200 with a 40-kilowatt-hour battery is perfect for “the Amazon generation” as a “last-mile delivery vehicle.” In taking the Leaf’s battery pack and placing it within the NV200 chassis, Dunsmore sees a “huge step change in growth.”
So far, Nissan’s U.S. website considers the e-NV200 a concept for the U.S. market, and Dunsmore said there are no plans to sell it here. But that could change if a delivery company placed a larger order, Dunsmore said. Already, Amazon uses the e-NV200 at its Madrid, Spain, delivery center. Perhaps that relationship could expand.
Roel de Vries, Nissan Motor’s global head of marketing, added that the current NV platform is late in its lifecycle, hinting that the next generation might not only be electrified but also carry autonomous capability on specific, well-traveled routes—say, as an airport shuttle or in cities like London with congestion charges within the city center.
Enthusiast interest in EVs and e-power solutions could accelerate as governmental CO2 regulations strangle the output of traditional internal combustion vehicles, de Vries said. “The majority of people don’t have much choice in terms of a unique driving experience. Our e-power can bring some of that back, where you will get the acceleration you used to get in ICE engines. That contributes to EV becoming more widely accepted.”
Nissan also is looking at using dirt-cheap, off-lease first-generation Leafs as a way to introduce potential converts to the technology, Dunsmore said. The monthly payment plus charging costs would be less than what someone would spend on gas, thus making the car essentially free. Nissan has more than 300,000 used Leafs to contend with, Dunsmore said, and “from a customer perspective, everyone is looking at EVs, but not everyone can afford a new one.”
The attractiveness of such a deal in the U.K. has made used Leaf residuals actually go up, “because they are too cheap,” Dunsmore said.
“Three years ago, no one wanted a used EV, but we’ve been transparent about range and battery degradation issues,” he said. “We’ve done a battery-health inspection on every one.”
As for Nissan’s reliance on CHAdeMO charging versus the SAE CCS or AC models, Dunsmore said that “all chargers are tri-standard now. It’s one box. Plus, CHAdeMO allows the charge to go both ways. BMW and VW are working on bidirectional, but the only certified one is us.”
Despite this positive attitude, de Vries is nonetheless prudent for the near term.
“We’re still in a situation where we need to grow the EV market in general,” he said. “Even where EVs are growing fast, it’s still a small portion of the market.” That said, with e-power, “We can scale [electrification] very fast on many of our cars, like Qashqai or X-Trail. It will be a real differentiator.”
Although the North Amreican market growth is “relatively slow,” de Vries said the electrification movement in China and Europe is growing very quickly. “Every new model cycle is the next step in technology.”