Nissan's Audacious Claim: Our EV Will Cost No More Than a Regular Compact Car

May 12, 2009
Nissan EV-02 prototype grille

Nissan EV-02 prototype grille

It seems to be electric vehicle season out there, with Ford, Chevrolet, and now Nissan giving rides in their development prototypes. In each case, a close-to-final drivetrain was mounted in a development "mule" far from the final production vehicle.

Of the three, Nissan has by far the most aggressive plans for pure electric cars. CEO Carlos Ghosn has claimed that up to 10 percent of the company's production will be battery-electric vehicles by 2016.

Now the company has revealed why it's so confident about its chances. Mark Perry, its director of product planning strategy, says that Nissan is shooting for a price on its 2012 EV that has "no price premium against a conventional compact car."

In other words, Nissan believes it can build and sell a five-seat electric car with 100 miles of range and all the amenities (multiple airbags, air conditioning, navigation and entertainment systems) of any other compact--and price it competitively--three years from now. Without factoring in the $7,500 Federal tax credit.

That's a huge step forward when Chevrolet is hoping it can keep the compact 2011 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle to a price of $40,000.

Perry refused to specify actual pricing, of course, saying only that today's actual, out-the-door actual average price for a compact was in the area of $28,000.

But he also pointed out that running costs for the Nissan EV would be significantly lower. Assuming fairly costly electricity (14 cents per kilowatt-hour), he said, the EV would cost less per mile even if gasoline fell to $1.10 a gallon.

If gas rose to $4/gallon, on the other hand, a 30-MPG car would cost 13 cents per mile in gasoline, whereas the EV would use just 4 cents of electricity every mile.

How can Nissan do this? The company has been conducting research into lithium-ion cells for cars since 1992, he said, and it controls a joint-venture with NEC Corporation that began manufacturing its automotive lithium cells a year ago this month.

In contrast, General Motors and Ford have to work with third-party lithium cell makers, Perry pointed out, and have far less elapsed time working with the technology.

Still, three years is a long time in the EV world. Nissan will reveal the production vehicle sometime this year--perhaps at this fall Frankfurt Motor Show--and deliver the first few hundred vehicles to fleets late in 2010. The car will be available globally for retail purchase at dealers during 2012.

Nissan EV-02 Gauge Setup

Nissan EV-02 Gauge Setup

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