Nissan wants an electric car
Nissan is fully committed to developing a viable lithium ion battery for automotive use – so much so, in fact, that the company envisions producing fully electric, as opposed to hybrid, automobiles.
At least that’s the story told by Nissan’s CEO, Carlos Ghosn, at a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand last week. According to Ghosn, Nissan sees development of this battery as giving it a competitive advantage and expects its recently opened Japanese technical center, intended to focus on environmentally friendly technologies, to allow Nissan to leapfrog other automakers in developing it.
Posing a rhetorical question, Ghosn asked, “If you have an efficient battery for a hybrid, why not go all the way and go for electric cars?”
Despite his evident optimism for the future, Ghosn acknowledged that Nissan is currently lagging competitors in battery technology. Though Nissan recently introduced a hybrid vehicle, the batteries are nickel-metal hydride batteries, not lithium ion.
Moreover, Nissan didn’t develop the technology it uses for that vehicle. Nissan licenses the technology for those batteries from Toyota. Of course, Toyota announced last month that it was postponing introduction of the lithium ion batteries planned for the next generation Prius because the technology required to makelithium ion batteries safe for automotive use was not yet sufficiently advanced to permit their production. (The nature of a lithium ion battery requires exceptionally precise production tolerances. Otherwise, the battery will short out. As those with Dell laptops know, that can cause a fire.)
Nonetheless, Ghosn apparently believes Nissan can leapfrog the other automotive companies and get to market with an electric car first.
History is not on Ghosn’s side. The answer to his rhetorical question is obvious: that a battery works on a hybrid doesn’t suggest that it will function effectively without a supplemental source of energy, such as an engine, to provide the necessary electricity to the battery. Even when used in conjunction with regenerative braking, getting any acceptable level of range and performance from a car powered primarily by batteries requires a further power source, either to recharge the batteries or to provide supplemental power at moments of peak demand.
Even Edison couldn’t solve that problem.
Perhaps that’s why no other major automobile manufacturer appears currently to be pursuing a completely battery powered vehicle.