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Nissan unveils new all-electric van

Jan. 9, 2012

As a potential mass production vehicle, the Nissan e-NV200 concept would also provide a reduction in operating costs compared to current internal combustion engine vehicles.” –Hideto Murakami, corporate vice president, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

Nissan showed off a new all-electric cargo van similar in size and style to Ford Motor Co.’s popular Transit Connect (a van that is also offered in an all-electric format) at the 2012 North American Auto Show in Detroit, MI, this week – a vehicle it expects will combine driving range similar to Nissan’s all-electric LEAF sedan with payload and cargo space similar to the current NV200.

Now, Nissan’s NV200 multi-usage vehicle is only currently available in Japan, Europe and China right now but – based on the growing popularity of Ford’s Transit Connect – I for one would not be surprised to see it pop up in the U.S. market sooner rather than later.

The Nissan e-NV200 concept, like the LEAF, is powered by a lithium-ion battery composed of 48 compact modules connected to an 80 kilowatt AC synchronous motor that generates 207 lb-ft (280 N-m/rpm) of torque.

As a potential mass production vehicle, Hideto Murakami, corporate vice president for Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., said in a statement that the Nissan e-NV200 Concept would also provide a reduction in operating costs compared to current internal combustion engine vehicles – something he considers critical to the future of EVs as a whole.

[You can watch the e-NV200 in action in the clip below, albeit it's strangely a "silent film" with no voice over commentary whatsoever ...]

“A vehicle like the Nissan e-NV200 concept would energize the current compact van market in more ways than one – helping improve the quality of urban life and providing a smart financial investment for large and small businesses alike,” Murakami added.

The battery capacity will support a driving range similar to the Nissan LEAF, which is about 100 miles, according to Nissan, while payload and cargo space will offer the same level as the current NV200, he noted. “The production version would be targeted mainly at businesses, but also at private users or families in major regions,” Murakami pointed out.

Nissan currently has a prototype NV200-based EV in real-world tests as well. Initial trials were conducted in the summer last year with Japan’s Postal Service, which used a single prototype for delivery and collection duties in Yokohama, Japan. Additional testing began in London last month in conjunction with FedEx, Nissan added.

Now, as I’ve noted in this space before, EVs face a slow, uphill struggle for wider market acceptance, according to a host of studies, so Nissan’s latest all-electric model isn’t a walk-off home run by any means.

Indeed, a new survey from Pike Research finds that consumer interest in purchasing plug-in EVs (PEVs) has gradually declined over the past two years. Data gleaned from the third annual edition of its Electric Vehicle Consumer Survey, using a nationally representative and demographically balanced sample of 1,051 U.S. adults found that only 40% are “extremely” or “very” interested in purchasing a PEV, compared to 44% in 2010 and 48% in 2009.

“Price is the most significant barrier to consumer interest in electric vehicles,” noted John Gartner, Pike’s research director.

“About two-thirds of our survey respondents who stated they would not be interested in purchasing a PEV said that they felt such a vehicle would be too expensive,” he explained. “Others said that they would want to wait a few years until the technology is more proven, and almost half said that a PEV would not have sufficient driving range for their needs. These are all key issues, both real and perceived, that automakers will need to address if PEVs are to move successfully out of the early adopter phase.”

Other key findings from Pike’s survey include:

• Consumers are willing to pay a premium for PEVs, just not as much of a premium as automakers must charge during the next few years due to the cost of batteries. Pike’s price sensitivity analysis indicates that for a traditional gasoline vehicle that would ordinarily cost $20,000, the optimal price point of a comparable PEV would be $23,750 – a premium of 18.75%.

• Interest in residential fast-charging equipment is high, with 80% of consumers interested in a PEV stating that they would also be interested in such a unit in their home. However, pricing is once again an issue – while Pike’s analysis suggests that the first generation of residential fast-charging equipment will cost between $500 and $800, only 28% of survey respondents stated that they would be willing to pay $500 or more.

But if the fuel savings when compared to equivalent gasoline powered models pans out and if they don’t cost too much, these all-electric vans – like Ford’s Transit Connect and other such models – might find a far more welcome reception among consumers and businesses alike than such surveys indicate. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr 1 | Senior Editor

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