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The electric feel, with ‘intelligent mobility’ as the mantra

India
Typography

A peek at Nissan’s line up of EVs

At Nissan Motor Company, everyone is charged up about electric vehicles.

The Japanese car-maker, already well up on the EV curve, is spending millions of dollars in how the world will move in the not-too-distant future.

‘Intelligent Mobility’ is the mantra,...


A peek at Nissan’s line up of EVs

At Nissan Motor Company, everyone is charged up about electric vehicles.

The Japanese car-maker, already well up on the EV curve, is spending millions of dollars in how the world will move in the not-too-distant future.

‘Intelligent Mobility’ is the mantra, which has zero-emission and zero-accident at its core. With this world-view, Nissan has developed practical day-to-day electric vehicles like the Leaf and hybrids like the Note, as also a technology-demonstrator like the BladeGlider that changes the very perception of an EV. After all, the BladeGlider can go from 0 to 100 kmph in under 6 seconds.

The company would obviously not put a number to its research and development spend, or what percentage of it goes into EVs, but Hughes Desmarchelier, Division General Manager and EV Programme Director, says the expenditure is significant.

Nissan is relying on vehicles like the Leaf to monetise some of its spending on EVs. On sale in Japan since 2010, Nissan has sold more than 2,50,000 units worldwide of this pure-electric, zero-emission vehicle. The look and feel is more or less that of a five-door hatchback except the silence. When the Nissan instructor suggests a shift to the Drive mode, one wonders if the vehicle is running at all.

With an 80 kW AC synchronous motor and a 48-module compact lithium-ion battery working together to power the front wheels, the Leaf is as impressively quiet on the move as it is at rest. The vehicle is nippy, and the steering is smooth. The interior is comfortable with the usual bells and whistles of EV-specific buttons. With a range of around 200 km on a single charge, it’s not difficult to imagine the popularity of the Leaf.

But large-scale adoption of a pure electric like the Leaf in a major market like India, for instance, will require infrastructure such as re-charging points; this vehicle is not headed to India in a hurry. What is more viable is perhaps the Nissan Note e-Power.

EV with an engine

This compact hatchback, which went on sale in Japan last November, is an EV with a conventional internal combustion engine. Only, the engine does not power the vehicle directly but charges the battery which, through an inverter, powers the electric motor that runs the wheels. This means the ICE engine does the charging on the go; you do not have to plug in or ‘recharge’ the car.

With the batteries –– which a Nissan representative says is a fraction of those in the Leaf –– positioned under the front seats, and the engine, power generator, inverter, and electric motor all integrated into one under-bonnet unit, the interior space has been maximised.

For India, with no infrastructure for EVs yet, this vehicle can be a good start point. Asked about an India launch, Danielle Schillaci, Nissan’s Executive Vice-President for Global Sales and Marketing, side-stepped the question, Yet, one does get the feeling that Nissan may be thinking on those lines more seriously than it lets on.

Powering homes, too

Beyond cars, Nissan is also revolutionising the way energy is generated and used with products like its xStorage Home unit and vehicle-to-grid technology, which harness the power of battery technology from EVs.

As Nissan says, “By charging up a Nissan Leaf at night, when there is more capacity for electrical supply, and then using that electricity as the daytime power source for a household, the system helps reduce peak power consumption. Further, it can also be leveraged as backup power supply for emergencies.”

Power can be supplied from a Leaf lithium-ion battery by installing a PCS (Power Control System) connected to the household’s distribution board, while plugged into the car’s DC quick-charge port. Further, through the PCS, a Leaf vehicle can be charged from the household power supply system. The Leaf EV lithium-ion battery has large capacity and high reliability, meaning it can provide a stable power supply.

Such inter-operability, Nissan hopes, will get converts to EVs. As Roel De Vries, Nissan’s Global Head of Marketing and Brand Strategy, says: “The electric revolution is at an inflexion point. And, as a global leader in electric vehicles, it is time to showcase all the benefits of an electric car — from energy efficiency to sustainability — especially as mass adoption appears not very far on the horizon.”

The writer was in Yokohama, Japan, recently at the invitation of Nissan Motor Company

(This article was published on April 11, 2017)

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