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Carlos Ghosn
Carlos Ghosn, the President and CEO of the Renault Nissan Alliance, addresses the Motor Press Guild at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show.

Carlos Ghosn's EV World

How the head of the Renault Nissan Alliance plans to bring electric cars to the world.

By Bill Moore

Carlos Ghosn began his keynote address to the thousands of journalists assembled at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show with the methodical deliberation of business school professor.

America, the world's largest car market, he explained, was on track to sell just over 10 million vehicles in 2008, a precipitous drop of 35% compared to 2007. American consumers just aren't buying cars, Nissan or otherwise; and the epidemic in consumer confidence is spreading worldwide, he cautioned.

"We are in uncharted territory." New car sales haven't been this bad since the end of World War Two. "We don't know when (consumer) confidence will return."

As a result, he recommended that car companies "void burning cash" while maintaining a minimum level of investment in new technology development. Circumspect advice for any business, automotive or otherwise. In addition, Ghosn -- pronounced like "hone" but with a hard 'g' like in go -- also foresees the likelihood of further automotive industry consolidation, just as we're seeing in banking and with airlines.

"There is always a time when growth resumes," he said hopefully.

It is absolutely certain, he continued that people will continue to drive the same types of vehicles they are now five to ten years into the future, and for much the same reasons. The car offers a sense of freedom. It is a status symbol and a mark of personal achievement.

But the world is changing, he observed.

By 2050, here could be as many as 9 billion people on the planet and possibly as many as 2.5 billion vehicles, bringing with them their attendant problems of road congestion, environmental tolls from pollution to global warming, and dependence on a finite resource: oil.

"The end game is zero emissions," he stated, segueing into the key thrust of his speech: the coming electric vehicle world, which Renault Nissan plans to lead.

Nissan, he reminded the journalists in the room and at the adjoining overflow location where three members of Team EVWorld were gathered, will demonstrate a "designed-from-the-ground-up" electric car in the U.S. and Japan in 2010, with mass market sales to follow in 2012. Powered by first generation batteries developed by its partner NEC, it will have a range of 100 miles. Succeeding generations of batteries now in development will eventually take the car out to 300 miles or more on a charge, he promised.

Ghosn announced two important developments during his speech, the outline text of which is now available here. The first is that Nissan plans to lease the batteries in its electric cars, citing an initial figure of $100 a month. The second is that Nissan's newest partner in its electric car deployment plans is the state of Oregon,where the first Nissan EVs will appear in Oregon in late 2010 as a result of a newly announced agreement between the company and Governor Kulongoski, who has proposed to the legislature a $5,000 tax credit on the purchase of plug-in electric vehicles.

"Our vision (of a zero emission vehicle future) is shared not only by consumers, but by government leaders."

Ghosn further pointed out that an unnamed country -- possibly any one of three: Israel, Denmark or Portugal -- imports $50 billion worth of petroleum every year. The country's leader told him that even if only ten percent of his fellow country switched to electric vehicles, that would result in a $5 billion savings on the nation's oil bill for a investment of of $1-2 billion to install infrastructure and offer government incentives.

"We see in Oregon the kind of passion and vision that is evident in all the places that are eager for green mobility. It’s not just about using electricity as fuel – that has been done since the 1800s. This is about reinventing mobility. It’s about stretching what we have always known about cars to allow for new ideas and practices. It’s about anticipating what future transportation needs will be. It’s about taking actions to benefit our environment and our planet.

"With the right infrastructure and the right economic conditions, we can navigate through this uncharted territory… to put sustainable mobility within our reach in the near future."

Times Article Viewed: 5366
Published: 21-Nov-2008

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