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The last time we spoke with Renault-Nissan head Carlos Ghosn, at the Geneva Motor Show, he spoke about the 70,000 all-electric vehicles his company's have sold to happy customers and how these vehicles are just the beginning of the EV era. Speaking at the New York Auto Show a little over a month ago, Ghosn went into detail about how building electric cars around the world will make them cheaper – and thus more prevalent – for just about everyone. He said:

When we started this effort on electric cars, the first challenge for us was to build credibility for the car itself. Because in the minds of many consumers, the electric car was a golf cart. Zero emission, yes, but everything else was wrong. This first challenge is over today. People driving the Leaf today know it's a real car. Acceleration, driving performance, silence – everything – it's a real car. They still complain. So, all the people who bought the Leaf are very happy. But a lot of people are testing the Leaf and not buying it. We asked them, why are you not buying the car?

There were two main answers: high price and worries about charging infrastructure. In the US, Nissan dropped the base price of the 2013 Leaf by $6,400 earlier this year and Ghosn said Nissan will "continue to reduce the price as a function of the cost." This will happen not just because of reduced shipping costs and less reliance on currency fluctuations, but because there are still efficiency gains to be had in the new production locations, Ghosn said. "It's not finished."

2013 nissan leaf

As for the infrastructure issue, Ghosn said Nissan is both building out a system of chargers on its own and is working with cities and governments to build more. "What is interesting is that governments are playing the game," he said. "Nobody forced them to offer $7,500 (the amount of the US federal tax credit)." The truth is that many governments want an alternative to oil, he said.

"Our ambitions on the Leaf are not 2,000 cars a month."

Take Japan, for instance. Ghosn said Japan consumes four million barrels of oil a day. That's $400 million dollars a day taken from the country every day, "for nothing," he said. "f you take a portion of this $400 million and invest it into a technology that employs people in Japan – and you can expand this to France and the US – It makes sense for governments to say, we need to give electric cars a chance."

Despite the benefits for governments today, Ghosn said, "frankly, we do not need [government help] forever. That would be doom." With economics of scale, the costs going down and the fact that the technology of the electric car is simpler, "little by little, you are going to see [EVs] as a major segment of the market. The Leaf is here to stay." And it's going to be a big product for Nissan, he said:

Our ambitions on the Leaf are not 2,000 cars a month, we said this from the beginning. At the same time, we know this is a breakthrough technology, we know this is a breakthrough car, and we're just going to have to be extremely patient and resilient and remove the obstacles one after another.


Ghosn also weighed in on automakers collaborating to develop new (admittedly, expensive) technology. Renault is working with Daimler on the new Smart/Twingo, for example, and there is an agreement between Daimler, Ford and Nissan on fuel cells. Ghosn explained that one this way:

Let's suppose I want to develop fuel cells by myself. Nissan, alone. Let's suppose this development costs 100. Now, if I work with Daimler, this technology is not going to cost 100, it's going to cost 120, because we know it is less efficient if you work across companies. Because you have different systems, different languages and different ways of doing things, so you spend a little more energy to develop this technology. Except that, this technology is not going to cost 120, as a whole, but my share is 60. In one case, I paid 100 to get a fuel cell, in the second other I paid 60.

With three companies, the overall cost rises again, but now the cost to Nissan is just 30-40. And the end result is probably better because there are multiple sets of engineers. "The fact that Ford, Daimler and Nissan are working together makes them less competitive. They are competing, but everybody wins and everybody pays less to get a better technology and probably contributing to the standard. You multiply this by diesel engines, electric cars and engines by themselves, transmissions, and you see why the industry is going to be more and more collaborative."


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  • 49 Comments
      purrpullberra
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ghosn has seen the future, huh? Brave man still has balls! should be the headline One thing I think government could still be useful for, maybe even necessary, is helping convince employers to install chargers at work and large apartment or condo building owners to as well. Putting in *some* chargers, related to the numbers showing interest could really help speed up EV adoption. Microsoft has said they just won't do it, they don't care how many EV's park there each day. There is a bit of jealousy I guess, you know "they don't buy me GAS!" might come from the someone. Maybe that could be offset if the chargers were at worse parking spots instead of coveted ones. A tax incentive to MS or to owners of large buildings to gradually introduce the opportunity for charging might make all the difference. It works for a lot of other similar ideas. If it were in done in the repeal of ALL subsides I could accept the loss of the tax incentives to buyers in higher income brackets (just above mine, right?). Consumers will probably not need the help anymore when the 200,000 credits are finally used up, I'd be ok if it ended then. But helping building owners make the conversion is something that only the government can ensure through properly targeted incentives. But there's no chance, right? It's not just smart people in charge. The GOP just gets dumber and dumber so I'm still expecting a lot of resistance to logic and what's right. But they must be overcome. (I'd prefer if it were from carbon monoxide.) :)
        Marcopolo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @purrpullberra
        @ purrpullberra I like the idea of tax incentives for owners making charging facilities available. This would really help tenants, and co-ops. (Especially on new building applications).
      Dave D
      • 2 Years Ago
      Slow and steady, just keep plugging. The momentum keeps building and we will hit a tipping point where they will have 175 miles of range, cost less than today (~$25k and there will be enough chargers to keep people from freaking out. At that point it will start to be silly not to consider an EV, at least for second cars in families or first cars for people who live and drive almost exclusively in a city.
        Giza Plateau
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave D
        Wrong Dave D. Rather than sheepishly wait for things to happen why not intelligently make them happen. It's not a given slow progression you can just wait on. It is what we make it! It could be awesome today, all we are waiting on is the gargantuan stupidity of mankind. Light and aero. I've said it a billion times!
          Marcopolo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Giza Plateau
          @DF/Ginza If you actually knew anything about Auto-mobile manufacture of any kind, including EV's, you would understand how silly you sound. Auto-mobiles, whether ICE, hybrid or EV's, must adhere to certain criteria and dynamics to be commercially viable. your simplistic, and meaningless, chants are just irritating unless you can prove how to may your claims viable. Join a local EV hobbyists club, and try to put your ideas into reality with your own money, and hard toil ! (You'll find it's not so easy).
          Chris M
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Giza Plateau
          "Intelligently make them happen" - Like Giza/Dan isn't... Yes, you've said it a billion times - but saying it isn't "doing it".
        Letstakeawalk
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave D
        BEVs are ideal as second cars/dedicated commuters.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          I was simply agreeing with Dave D, no need to get testy. The "/" indicates either/or; for some people, a BEV would be an ideal second car, for others, an ideal dedicated commuter, *ahem*, primary car.
          Spec
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          That makes them the 'first' cars.
      brotherkenny4
      • 2 Years Ago
      feint
      Dave D
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ahhhhhhh, an interesting concept. Do the old Ronnie Reagan on them and try to make them spend themselves into oblivion to compete with your "Star Wars" missile defense system.
      RC
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hydrogen still makes NO sense. It's sad to watch Renault / Nissan embark in that H2 fraud.
        Letstakeawalk
        • 2 Years Ago
        @RC
        "Embark"? Nissan is one of the leaders in FC stack technology. They're not just getting started, they've been on this path for quite a while.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          I think he explained it well, in terms of cost savings. Getting costs down is still a major hurdle, as the technology itself begins to mature.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          Yep. The Tesla has as much or more range as a hydrogen vehicle. Unless of course you know anything about the subject. The 85khw Tesla is rated at 265 miles on the EPA. The Toyota FCEV is good for 431 miles according to far more onerous testing in real world conditions including actual highway travel: http://www.nrel.gov/hydrogen/pdfs/toyota_fchv-adv_range_verification.pdf I don't understand why people make pronouncements without troubling to find out anything at all about the technology.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          I assumed they were comparing the Model S to the much smaller Honda Clarity FCV, which is typically quoted with a range of 240 miles. "The FCX Clarity has an EPA certified range of 240 miles, with a 5,000 PSI tank holding four gallons. Honda’s math shows just switching to a 10,000 PSI fuel storage tank could increase range to about 360 miles, and Ellis says that increasing fuel pressure is just one of the options Honda has available to increase range." Of course, that's on the older 350bar tanks - remember the Clarity is old-gen FCV tech. Honda states that if they simply switched to modern 700bar tanks, no other major changes, the Clarity would do 360 miles. http://www.government-fleet.com/blog/fleetspeak/story/2013/03/test-driving-the-honda-fcx-clarity-fuel-cell-car.aspx?prestitial=1 Great article, they do resolve the cost-per-mile question there, too: "And if you’re worried about cost, Ellis estimates per-gallon cost will be about double the cost of gasoline when stations start charging for fuel – but he’ll be quick to remind you that the FCX Clarity is three times as efficient as an internal combustion engine saying, “Your net out of pocket per mile cost should be less than gasoline.”
          Spec
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          Well if they are one of the leaders in this technology and felt it would be big market going forward, then one would think that they would have kept it to themselves and not participated in the joint venture. Kinda makes you wonder why they picked the joint venture route.
        brotherkenny4
        • 2 Years Ago
        @RC
        Yes, it makes no sense, but it also depends on how much you spend on H2. Say you only chip in lip service money and convey to your competition verbally that you are pursuing hydrogen. They may spend more towards that goal to be competitive. In the greater war of attrition this is a victory for you. They waste resources and you only fein at it.
        David Murray
        • 2 Years Ago
        @RC
        Absolutely. I do not understand why people think hydrogen is the answer. A Tesla model-S has as much or more range than a hydrogen vehicle and costs quite a bit less to produce. But the killer issue that is often overlooked is the cost and availability of hydrogen. Even if you had a filing station on every corner, I understand it costs a lot more than gasoline per mile. So where's the incentive? Do they think people will buy hydrogen cars just to be green? I hope not, because they already found out that the "green" approach doesn't sell cars very well.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @David Murray
          "Even if you had a filing station on every corner, I understand it costs a lot more than gasoline per mile." Would you care to back up this assertion with documentation? At the moment, there is no standardized cost for gaseous hydrogen fuel, so it's hard to get accurate numbers. Then, there's the complexity of the wide variety of production paths that could potentially be used to produce hydrogen for fuel. Some are quite expensive, and some are quite cheap. It's far to state that at the moment, the target price for hydrogen fuel would be equivalent to gasoline. With gasoline selling around $3.50 per gallon, that means that $7.00 per kg Hydrogen would be a fair price, due to the 2-3x greater efficiency of an FCV. According to the DoE, the current status for hydrogen from electrolysis (arguable the more expensive route, but chosen because of renewable desires) is $4.20 gge, or $8.40 per kg. Biomass gasification, also considered a renewable source, can currently produce hydrogen at $2.20 gge, or $4.40 per kg - this makes it cheaper than average gasoline prices today. http://www.hydrogen.energy.gov/pdfs/progress12/ii_0_dillich_2012.pdf
          Spec
          • 2 Years Ago
          @David Murray
          10,000 PSI of hydrogen in your car . . . how could you not want that?
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @RC
        Meh. Nothing wrong with covering all bets by participating in a joint venture. It is possible that some unforeseen breakthrough happens. So he's just paying the minimum to stay in the fuel cell game.
      throwback
      • 2 Years Ago
      My reason for not buying the Leaf was range I need at least 150 real world miles so I can use the car as a daily driver. I'm waiting for version 2. Hopefully it comes with better styling also. I'll be very happy to buy a Esflow.
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @throwback
        As Tesla has shown, 150 real world miles is very possible. It just is not cheap. Nor will it ever be, IMHO. It will get cheaper though.
      chanonissan
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ghosn is smart, fuel cell technology is very expensive right now, electric cars is easier and cheaper, it is not the technology that is nissan problem ( because they where the first with a stack), it is the cost to make a fuel cell vehicle. Toyota recently announce it would cost $100,000 to $50,000 for their FCV. Now the question is how many people would by the tech for $100, 000, not a lot, but if nissan can make a 250 miles electric car that cost $20,000, bet it will sell quite a few.
      Marcopolo
      • 2 Years Ago
      Carlos Ghosn is a remarkably clever guy. His ability to harness the energy of allies, and direct them in common purpose, is astounding. It takes real courage and determination to continue to defend his conglomerate alliance's huge investment in EV's, despite disappointing sales, and economic upheaval in Europe. That fact that Renault-Nissan is still able to generate profits, despite the huge investment and development costs of the electric vehicle programme, is a testimony to Carlos Ghosn's ability as a CEO. The fact that Renault-Nissan have a EV programme at all, is testimony to Carlos Ghosn's vision and courage and determination !
      paulwesterberg
      • 2 Years Ago
      The leaf is good enough to meet the needs of 90% of people during their normal weekday commuting. I have usually been only charging to 80%(silly me being kind to the battery on a lease vehicle) but I haven't had any problems doing my normal commute, including many errands and side trips across town. The leaf is very efficient in urban/suburban driving. There are a number of public chargers in town, but I haven't used them yet because I haven't needed them. The car doesn't work well for long day trips on the interstate or into the countryside because there are no chargers available and trickle(110v) charging does not add much range.
        krona2k
        • 2 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        I'm also leasing and also only charge to 80% most days. I don't think it's silly to only charge for what you need and to preserve the battery for the next person, it's the moral thing to do. I haven't tried using any public chargers yet - still waiting for redundancy in the charging network and ideally a unified and simple payment/membership system.
          no1bondfan
          • 2 Years Ago
          @krona2k
          +1 for being thoughtful to others. That is too rare these days.
        otiswild
        • 2 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        Given the ~2 years I've spent driving the Volt, I think I could get by with a 30kWh-usable Leaf with active thermal management.
        throwback
        • 2 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        The next owner will thank you for treating the battery well.
      Giza Plateau
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ghosn, you are doing it absolutely wrong. Instead of the ugly uninspiring overpriced Leaf do an attractive car, an aerodynamic car and a lightweight car at a cost optimized price. Then everything else will happen instantly by itself. You are the obstacle Ghosn.
        Marcopolo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Giza Plateau
        @ DF/Giza Let's see, in your opinion, Elon Musk is an idiout who doesn't know what he's doing, Carlos Ghosn is another in a long line of people you consider idiot's. But these guy's actually create and build real EV's, while you just sit in your little world of fantasy.
          Giza Plateau
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Marcopolo
          I wouldn't describe Elon thus simply. He is obviously quite capable in many ways but I would say he has totally failed to realize how important low weight and aerodynamics is and in general optimization of energy use and cost. The unforgivable 2.1ton I believe is what's weighing the company down despite great enthusiasm for the car from consumers and the very high price. They are selling far more cars than they originally hoped for and at an average price of 98k$ and they are still nowhere close to break even. They only almost break even because of the huge ZEV credits. Something like 25k$ per car sold in CARB states which is just crazy. I can admire the scale of the audacity and the almost magical ability to stay alive despite more hemorrhaging than the Hoover dam, but it's not a business model I would be comfortable with nor lend my name to. It's brinkmanship on a scale I have never seen before. Similarly Ghosn is not simply an idiot. He's a pretty good player on the whole and credit is due for jumping on the EV bandwagon but the execution falls extremely short of the glory. Classic mistake of making an ugly car and then compounded by the lack of awareness that the value proposition has to be there to be successful. You can't just lean back and stamp it 'premium' and think that flies with the consumer because you yourself like the greed of the idea. GM did the exact same thing. 40k$ price and stamp it with 'premium' as if that makes it ok. On top of that it was built in Japan which is a very expensive country and while the exchange rate became increasingly worse since announcing, it was pretty bad already in january 2009 at which point I imagine there was still time to realize it should not be produced in Japan.
        JP
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Giza Plateau
        I somewhat agree with Dan. The LEAF is not good enough. It needs better appearance, better aero, and longer range. Time for a redesign Nissan.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @JP
          The Leaf was introduced as a 2010 model, and is only now beginning to really ramp up production with the TN plant. The Infinity variant hasn't even be released, yet. Relax, the First-gen Leaf has some good life in it before a major redesign.
          JP
          • 2 Years Ago
          @JP
          LTAW, The design is uninspiring and the car is not efficient enough to make up for the poor looks. If it looked better and had at least another 10-15 miles of range, both of which are easily doable, it would sell better. I think Nissan would like it to sell better so they might want to think about a redesign.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @JP
          Oh, no doubt Nissan is thinking about a redesign. I'm sure they're working on it *right* now. But for the moment, this is the Leaf that they're selling, and it's replacement will come along soon enough, but not before Nissan has made enough of the current gen to make the TN plant's current production line worthwhile. As much as many EV enthusiasts would which it weren't so, current EV production is still constrained by many of the production issues of a typical auto. Designs get worked and reworked. Engineering details must be worked out years before production starts. It's not economically feasible to expect drastic changes in a platform that is only a couple years into its production cycle. "NISSAN is working on a significantly bolder Leaf for the next-generation vehicle, promising more audacious styling inside and out, as well as improved packaging, to match a massive step forward in technology. Due in about 2017, the second version of the pioneering electric vehicle from Japan will espouse a more futuristic design, Nissan promises. The company believes that consumers by then should be more familiar with – and have a far wider choice of – EVs and will therefore expect more than just electrification to keep them interested in the next Leaf. To that end, the next-generation version will break away from the two-box body shape, which dates back to the need to package the classic front-mounted internal combustion engine and drivetrain. Nissan says it deliberately stayed with a conservative silhouette for the first-generation Leaf in order to not scare away consumers already feeling intimidated by the electrification technology. For future versions, it is thought that Nissan is experimenting with electric ‘motor-in-wheel’ technology that uses the wheel hub as part of the motor, driving the wheel directly without any mechanical losses and increased dynamic appeal." http://www.goauto.com.au/mellor/mellor.nsf/story2/2A6F0A3B23BD9E19CA257A2200067498 No matter how good the current model might be, this statement will always be true: "If it looked better and had at least another 10-15 miles of range, both of which are easily doable, it would sell better." Nissan is working to update the Leaf, they're just doing it on their schedule, based on planning and research. So, I'll repeat, just relax, and let the first-gen Leaf have its day in the sun. The next-gen will be here soon enough.
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      "There were two main answers: high price and worries about charging infrastructure." They are working on the high price. But the charging infrastructure should not matter that much. But what I think would be the best thing to help improve the charging infrastructure would be to resolve the DC-fast charge standards war. The head of the DoE should call a meeting with all the major carmakers and hash that out.
        Ernie Dunbar
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        You're right, the charging infrastructure *shouldn't* matter much. However, if you're coming out of 20 years of driving a gas car, and you've heard good things about electrics before but you don't hang out on EV forums on the internet, you're not likely to think that. You're going to ask 'where can I fill it up?' And then you're going to ask 'but what if I want to drive to Vegas?' These concerns are extremely common. Nissan hears about them the most in the showroom, so Nissan is going out of its way to *sell the car*. At least they're not GM and saying "We're losing money on every car!" and lobbying the government to stop asking them to make them. You know, like what happened with the EV-1.
          Ernie Dunbar
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ernie Dunbar
          The point being that Nissan is actually committed to building electrics, they're not going about it half-assed, and they want to make their project *work* in the real world.
          Spec
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ernie Dunbar
          'but what if I want to drive to Vegas?' Fly to vegas with the money you saved not buying gasoline.
      Andrew Richard Rose
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is one guy that will not be invited to "Bilderburg " !
        Giza Plateau
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Andrew Richard Rose
        Why not? he helps destroy the planet just like the others with all his heavy crude SUVs and with his overpriced ugly EV that sells very few and makes no real difference. Don't kid yourself that he's our hero. He might just be the least pathetic of the world betrayers. And it's Bilderberg.
          purrpullberra
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Giza Plateau
          "...the least pathetic of the world betrayers...."-- A title I thought you'd give yourself! :) Tell the truth, the world groans every time you do anything, too. I mean, have you even made up for all the diapers used on you as a tot? Your hardline stance doesn't make you better than others. It makes you a bigger hypocrite.
          Giza Plateau
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Giza Plateau
          By that logic Jesus was the greatest hypocrite. So insincere of him to speak such truth and be so righteous. Such a hypocrite...
          Giza Plateau
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Giza Plateau
          Good luck with that
          purrpullberra
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Giza Plateau
          I think jesus is gutter trash, the titular head of a sad religion that appeals to losers and prison inmates. No better or worse than muhammad or the trix rabbit, jesus crap, its all the same. I guess you are the same type of horrible hypocrite although impotent and insubstantial. Giza, pathetic keeps calling and you can't help but answer with your lunacy. I will continue to be the reality check to your mad ravings. Smile, your life ain't getting better. I'll be here to remind you how wrong you are. I can't help but win against you. :)
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