• Jun 22, 2010
At last week's Automotive News Green Car Conference, Brian Carolin, senior vice president for sales and marketing at Nissan acknowledged that extended range electric vehicles (EVs) could eventually join the pure battery electric Leaf in the marque's stable. However, Carolin emphasized that Nissan wanted to maximize the environmental benefit of its initial entries by going with pure battery electric and no direct emissions.

At the same conference, General Motors' director of hybrid and electric vehicle development Micky Bly said that his company's approach to EVs was to make sure they could be primary vehicles. The Volt is intended to be a vehicle that can operated emissions free most of the time and yet still be able to handle road trips when needed.

The factor that may end up driving Nissan toward implementing some sort of range extender system will be whether it can reach beyond early adopters. First year production of the Leaf is already "sold out," with more people signing up than there will be vehicles available. However, it's not clear if mainstream consumers will be willing to make the sacrifices in terms of range and having to plan trips that hardcore EV enthusiasts are willing to do. Right now, Nissan is still betting they will and is planning for an annual Leaf production capacity of 500,000 units within just a few years. But, in a business as capital intensive as the auto industry, no one can afford to go all-in on any one high-risk bet for very long. As the old Chinese proverb/curse says, everyone making those bets is living in very interesting times.




[Source: Automotive News – sub. req'd]





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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 49 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      @Joe,
      The roll out costs of hydrogen and the number of stations seem to be somewhat US-centric!
      Maybe it is tougher in the US, but most countries have a higher density of population and need less stations to give reasonable coverage.
      The cost is also going to vary depending on whether you transport the hydrogen as such or reform it on-site or even on-vehicle.
      The UK has around 9,000 petrol stations, and around 1,000 hydrogen pumps would give very reasonable coverage, at least initially.
      Since we had absolutely lousy luck at pining down the figures on the pumps, a guess at $2-4 billion, not as a final figure but to give very good initial coverage does not sound unreasonable.
      That is a fair chunk of change, but by no means the kiss of death.
      I have rooted around and looked at reformers, and Nissan/Renault seem to be tied in with Nuvera to some extent.
      They build both reformers, using several different technologies, and hydrogen stations:
      http://www.nuvera.com/technology/processors.php

      http://www.nuvera.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/fcp10_leshchiner-2008-doe-review.pdf

      If batteries could at any reasonable cost give a car a 400 mile range, and power long distance trucks, it might not be worthwhile developing fuel cells.
      Since both are a lot closer to practicality using fuel cells it seem worthwhile pressing on.
      Incidentally the introduction date for the AESC double-density batteries is supposed to be around 2015, exactly the same time horizon as for people like Hyundai to lift their production from around the 1,000 a year they intend for 2012, well inside your somewhat arbitrary 3 years limit
      'When they start talking 3 years or less... that is reflects seriousness and the fact that things are "in progress".

      It is good to see that you accept that cell cars in fairly decent demonstration volume are indeed 'in progress'.
      Unless Hyundai have gone barmy they have at least the courage of their convictions that they can reduce costs enough and overcome problems to make 10,000 cars a year practical by 2015.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Smart move, I think if we introduce range extenders this will be the death of Ice, as there would be no logical reason left to buy one (apart from retail price).
      • 4 Years Ago
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      • 4 Years Ago
      I would think GM would have an easier time creating a BEV from Voltec than Nissan creating an ER-EV from the Leaf.

      Simply removing the ICE and gas tank (decreasing weight) would probably get a good increase in range even before making the battery bigger to 'compete' with the Leaf.

      Adding a generator to the Leaf would need a lot of work if you wanted it to be seemless (and efficient).
      • 4 Years Ago
      I doubt they've done it with the Leaf, but it seems to me the smart thing would be to build the charging and control systems to accept input from a generator, then allow the Leaf to tow a small genset trailer as mentioned above for extended trips. Rental services could rent them for those who can't own/store one. Not the most convenient option, but it would vault the Leaf into more seriously usable car territory. The trailer could even offer a bit of extra storage space to increase its road trip cred. I'd imagine that will be one of the first things some Leaf owners start hacking into their car, but I guess it would come down to the flexibility of the control systems.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "However, it's not clear if mainstream consumers will be willing to make the sacrifices in terms of range and having to plan trips that hardcore EV enthusiasts are willing to do."

      It is this kind of weak thinking that annoys me. If the Nissan Leaf is expected to sell out and be profitable doing so why is it necessary to satisfy the "mainstream consumer" at all? If they make money and can preemptively corner the pure EV market I fail to the point of making a range extender at all. Let that business go to the Volt or any ICE car that gets decent mileage. This idea that the Leaf must be everything to everybody is stale. It just has to be everything to the people who buy the entire production run at full MSRP.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I don't believe GM is going to make enough Volts to satisfy demand, assuming the price is reasonable, so it would be a good opportunity for Nissan to sell more cars.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Let that business go to the Volt or any ICE car that gets decent mileage."

        That's exactly what Nissan is trying to avoid. The goal is to offer different models that suit different people, not offer one thing and when people reject it, sit down and wait for the next one whlie they shop elsewhere. It's a business, and they're looking to make the most money as possible.

        If the industry worked your way, would there be a manufacturer that offered only minivans? Then one that only offered RWD sports cars? One that only sells SUV's? The goal is to have everything under one roof, so that people can come to you with what they want, and you can give it to them.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Jason I don't think Nissan is trying to scoop up Volt market share.

        The entire EV market is exactly as you describe it.
        One manufacturer makes an ER-EV (Chevy Volt)
        One manufacturer makes a High Performance Coupe (Tesla Roadster)
        One manufacturer makes a EV Sedan (Nissan Leaf

        Why would you keep inviting customers just to tell them you can't sell them what you advertised? Lastly, why would you spend money on yet another gamble. If the Volt is the first successful ER-EV I am sure Nissan could spend the money to be second to market and still be more profitable than GM.

        I think you and I actually agree on the long term .. but for Nissan to change strategy before the first Leaf sells seems premature.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I think one of us is misunderstanding the article. Not sure if it's you or me.

        My take away from it was that they were going to see how the Leaf and Volt do, and if both do decent, then both ramp up production of the Leaf and introduce a series hybrid setup of some kind (not sure if it would be the same model).

        I agree that you described how the EV market is now. However, I don't think that's the best way to do it from a business sense. Having one niche model is no way to sell a ton of cars at a low price. If you're going to have a niche model, you're better off making one uber expensive like a tesla or ferrari so you can make more on the product while selling at low volume. To make money on low priced vehicles, your profit margin is less, so you need to sell a whole lot of them to make a lot of money. The best way to sell a ton of vehicles is to have one of everything.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Where's the range extending trailer?
        • 4 Years Ago
        LOL A vast majority of Americans find it to much of a brain fart or hassle to plan their trips, how could you expect them to hook up a trailer and pull it. Not to mention you are cutting into the auto corps profits by making trailers. Much easier for lethargic Americans to pay for and constantly carry around 500 to 700 extra lbs of metal to use the 15% of the time they need it and much more profitable for the auto corps.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The Automaker only has to do 3 things:

        1)
        Have an optional tow hitch (Nissan eventually will)

        2)
        Put a Tepco/Chademo connector just below the rear bumper

        3)
        Allow the charge controller to accept a DC charge while in motion.


        The makers of the Range Extender can do all the rest.
      • 4 Years Ago
      They did say "eventually." That is a sensible position to take on the part of Nissan.

      They need to solidify their lead in BEVs first, bring several different models to market to complete their BEV lineup.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I can see both sides of this. On one hand, it would be good for
      Nissan to get their total EV volumes up by also doing PHEVs and bring
      total costs down more rapidly for all of us.

      On the other hand, I would rather see them focus on the EV market and
      take total leadership there. Instead of range extenders, they could
      pioneer the pluggable batteries that you could rent if you needed a
      long trip.

      It's clearly possible and some early moto-racing crowd is showing how
      it can be done. The Leaf has plenty of space to plug in some extra
      modules this way compared to a motorcycle too:

      " Czysz says the bike offers a different vision to its TTXGP rivals,
      with its ‘hot-swappable’ battery packs "
      http://www.motorcyclenews.com/MCN/News/newsresults/New-bikes/2009/June/jun0409-E1pc-exclusive-picture/
      • 4 Years Ago
      Renault sold some "EREVs" i.e. serial PHEVs in 2003.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroad

      The Elect'Road is a plug-in series hybrid version of Renault's popular Kangoo. It began selling in 2003 in Europe (mainly in France[1], Norway and a few in the UK). It was sold alongside Renault's Electri'cité electric-drive Kangoo battery electric van. Renault discontinued the Elect'Road after selling about 500, primarily in France, Norway and the UK, for about €25,000.[2])

      The Elect'Road had a 150 km (93 mi) range using a nickel-cadmium battery pack and a liquid-cooled gasoline "range-extender" engine.

      Although the Elect'road has a range extender it is effectively the very first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). In hybrid terms it operates in a blended mode, using engine and battery power simultaneously[3].
        • 4 Years Ago
        Thanks for the link, evnow. That seems like a great PHEV (90+ mile EV range plus extender). I wonder why they only sold 500 of them.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @worldcitizenUSA

        "I wonder why they only sold 500 of them."

        From the Wiki link "Air cooled nickel-cadmium battery batteries, guaranteed for 5 years (1500 cycles)" "the cost to replace them if needed was 7000EUR" In range extender mode "the fuel economy drops to a disappointing 7 liters/100 km"

        Nuf said.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think Nissan should concentrate fulfilling demand for pure EV's and the building the charging infrastructure. Once they cover that market, then maybe look at other options. However, EV development and infrastructure may grow at a rate that makes plug-in hybrids unnecessary.

      If they do add a range extender, it should be a small generator rather than a heavy adapted-ICE-car engine. Say 7.5 kW, which could run constantly as a base load in parallel with the battery discharge only if you are going longer distances between quick charges. By using a much smaller generator that would only run for long trips (preferrably removable) you wouldn't be adding all that weight that compromises the electric vehicle operation of current plug-in electrics. Using the engine to power a generator to power the car is not as efficient- the Prius makes better mileage than the Volt on range extender. Currently, you would be better off to have a dedicated EV (which works better as an EV) and use (rent, share, have as a second car) a dedicated hybrid like a Prius (which does better running off of gas)- or just use mass transit for longer trips, if available.
        • 4 Years Ago
        There is some free space under of Leaf's floor. Its trunk is spacious too - it shouldn't be too difficult to fit a small ICE generator.
        That idea with slowing battery discharge using generator is a good one. The lighter and smaller ICE then better.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I disagree,

        As a range extender, it should be at a minimum, powerful enough to "sustain" travel at highway speeds with the A/C on.

        7.5 KW is not enough. 30KW is a decent size.

        If you have a gas engine that does nothing but add a few miles to the total range... it may look good on paper. A 100 mile Leaf becomes a 200 mile Leaf.

        But when you hit 200 miles... you're still stuck. Cause the battery is depleted and the range extender is not powerful enough to get up to 70 mph. Fail.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I like detachable, pull-along extenders like this
      http://www.evnut.com/rav_longranger.htm
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