Nissan's EV Future: A Shared Vision?
Two critical events occurred within just two days of each other, though a world apart. On Monday, Nissan rolled its black and white Cube out of its transporter and parked it in front the assembly hall at Bear Mountain State Park overlooking the Hudson, north of metropolitan New York City. This was the end of a cross-country tour of the electric drive technology that will find its way into Nissan's future electric car starting in 2010. Scores of journalists and Nissan dealers got to take this engineering 'mule' for short turns around parking lots. [The vehicle isn't licensed, so on-road excursions weren't permitted; and since it is only one of two in the world, Nissan didn't want to risk it being damaged in an accident].
The second event occurred half a world away in Japan, where Better Place held their own press briefing to demonstrate technology that achieves what many thought, if not impossible, at least impractical, a robotic battery exchange system. It's success is a crucial milestone in achieving Shai Agassi's vision of a electric car infrastructure that removes the limits of battery range from the future of personal mobility.
These two events share many common threads, but the first and most important is that the Renault Nissan Alliance, headed by Carlos Ghosn, understood the implications of Agassi's vision and set off in parallel to help mold the future of electric car technology.
Nissan's role in the drama is to develop an affordable electric car that competes favorably and economically with its gasoline competitors. This is the message of the 20-minute video above that Nissan North America's director of product development, Mark Perry, delivered to some 30 or so journalists, plus a collection of Nissan dealers from the northeast US region.
While there is, at present, no evidence that the vehicle we drove on Bear Mountain -- more video to come -- has any technological links to the battery exchange system demonstrated in Yokohama, Japan in the wee hours of the morning here in America, it would not be a stretch to assume that Nissan's future electric car, which will have its own unique and "iconic" styling I am told, will incorporate exchange features found in the Better Place system, even though it is the Renault half of the alliance that is developing cars for Agassi. It seems completely improbably -- there's that word again -- and illogical that Renault and Nissan would be developing completely separate battery systems. The video footage showing the exchange in process notes that the robotic system has been designed for accommodate other sizes of battery packs, suggesting it could be used not only on other Renault models, but other manufacturers, as well.
The introduction of an affordable, five-passenger compact electric car and a 2-minute robotic battery exchange system could be exactly the "killer ap" we've been waiting for. Interestingly, Katherine Zachary, Nissan's national marketing manager told me that the company is still considering various battery ownership options from selling the car and battery as a complete unit to selling the car and leasing the battery and various permutations in between.
In brief, our EV World just got a lot more interesting and exciting and just in two day's time.
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