By on November 2, 2010

More than any other mainline automaker, Nissan has bet heavily on electric vehicles penetrating the mass market within a reasonable time period. Whether or not that gamble will pay off remains very much to be seen, but the firm’s post-Leaf EV plans are less than entirely inspiring. Yes, there will be an Infiniti version of the Leaf for the US market (and possibly an EV delivery van for Europe), but after that, Nissan says its next EV will be a retreat to the golf cart-style Neighborhood Electric Vehicles that spread rapidly when gas prices spike two years ago before dropping off the map. Called the “New Mobility Concept,” this open-air Nissan (the Renault version is called the Twizzy) will be faster than a NEVs, with a top speed of 47 mph planned. Range is also better than the typical lead-acid battery-powered NEV, with about 60 miles of range planned. Still, this is a huge step backwards from the Leaf, and it speaks to a basic lack of confidence in the Leaf’s radical mainstreaming effort for EVs. Given how much Nissan has riding on the Leaf, that’s a troubling sign indeed. [via Automotive News [sub]]

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29 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back Edition...”


  • avatar
    Bancho

    It’s missing the racks for the golf bags.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      A tiny electric generator/charger in lieu of the golf bag carrier would have been a clever swap.

      Waitaminit…

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      Two seats, 45mph top speed, 60 mile range – as a dedicated suburban commuter/neighborhood car, this would work well for a lot of people.
      The problems are:

      1. the shape/form-factor/styling is too reminiscent of the golf-cart based NEV.  Would work better if they tweaked it to look more like a Toyota iQ.
      2. not a lot of people can afford to have a car like this purely for commuting, and another one for longer/family trips – even if this car makes perfect sense for them 80% of the time.  Some kind of car-share plan (like zipcar) may be ideal for this, rather than traditional car ownership.

    • 0 avatar
      sco

      If you would have asked Americans in 1965 about the market for a massive pickup with sides as tall as your chin or a large SUV, the answer would been that the market was very small and specialized.  Same deal here – convince Americans that said vehicle is cool and necessary, you’ll have a hit.  Just because the real market is inner city dwellers doesnt mean the market is limited to city dwellers.  Just a matter of time and perception. 

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      You guys say that tiny cars will sell, but the Smart fail proves you wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      Yes, smart “proved” that an tiny, overpriced fashion accessory that offered little real advantage would fail in the US market. smart was actually a dumb car.  Two seats, small luggage compartment, quirky looks, and fuel consumption that was not significantly better than a four-seat econo-car at a similar price.  The only rational (as opposed to emotional) advantage was in parking.
       
      If smart offered the same vehicle with a hybrid or plug-in engine at around the $10000 – 12000 price point, it would have been a very compelling proposition and IMHO would have been a success in the market.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      @Thinkx: You really think you’re smarter than Smart?

      If it were that easy, wouldn’t Smart have done so?

      I mean, look at BMW’s Mini-E.

      Oh, wait…

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      @SVX pearlie – was the BMW mini-E offered for sale in the US market at that price point?

      I was just saying that if a viable small electric car was offered at that price point, it would do much better than the Smart.  Just my humble opinion, of course – but money isn’t really an object for me and even I did not feel the Smart offered any compelling real benefit at its price (aside from parking and maybe a couple of months of (diminishing) novelty).

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    I can see some European scooter riders stepping up to this; in the US, not so much. But if this is such a step backwards, what would be a step forward: an EV Armada?

  • avatar
    jcap

    I think the BMW C1 is the better concept for this size of vehicle, but it flopped in the market.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMW_C1

  • avatar
    V572625694

    I want a Twizzy in my garage next to my Twingo.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    So thats not the car from the new Jetsons movie?

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    Yeah, it doesn’t make much sense in the US, most people would consider the Leaf to be an entry-level EV as it is.  I could see this in a congested metropolitan area in Europe, or Aspen Colorado for that matter. 

  • avatar
    Tree Trunk

    Why is there a problem?

    Toyota figured that there is a market for a large loaded vehicle so they build the Avalon, but some customers would be better served with a smaller basic transportation so Toyota build the Yaris.

    Doesn’t mean they have given up on the large car, they just figure that different set of customers will need and want different things. If they like the entry level car, with time they might be willing to upgrade.

    If Nissan can crank out a fair number of neighborhood EV they should get better return on their investment in electrical technology, get more informed customers and infrastructure for EVs, so again where is the problem?

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    Since this is just a Nissan badged version of a vehicle already announced for Renault, this seems more like marching in place than a step backwards. I think that it’s prudent for Nissan to see how the rollout of the Leaf goes before they announce the next mainstream EV.

  • avatar
    L'avventura

    I think this vehicle makes a lot of business sense.
     
    Nissan is clearly trying to use their battery manufacturing capacity to full.  They have gambled massively with EV tech, creating three automotive plants in the US, Europe, and Japan, and billions in global supplier network to support what they intend on 500k cars in the next few years.  Its a scale that puts the Volt to shame.  The Leaf alone can’t justify this investment.
     
    The modularity of EV components makes it ideal for multiple products as scaling between products is trivial compared to convention ICE products.  For Nissan this is a minor investment, and has the potential to create new markets that haven’t existed before.  Blue Ocean Strategy.  There are plenty of areas where 60 mph is adequate, and there are probably many fleet uses that this will be ideal for; meter-maids, on-campus school security, pizza-delivery, etc.  Renault’s version has two models, one that is street legal, and cheaper one that is not (has 7hp and is more an E-Z-Go rival).
     
    The real question is the price.  The Leaf transports 3,500 lbs using a 107hp motor with a 24 kwh battery and claims a 100 mile range.    This vehicle claims a mere 50 miles, has a 20hp motor, weighs ~1,000 lbs (450kgs).  probably a battery in the 6-7kwh range.
     
    If they could price this below $10k for the street legal version they may have a huge success on their hands.

  • avatar
    Lexingtonian

    I fail to see how this is either a step backwards or a lack of confidence in the Leaf — it’s an attempt to profit from a market that may or may not be there.
     
    What is shows is that Nissan believes that EV tech will open up a market for something smaller than a subcompact.
     
    It does also show that Nissan doesn’t expect to be able to profitably sell a more typical midsize or fullsize sedan based off of the technology in the next five years — but that shouldn’t surprise anyone; the technology isn’t mature enough for a product you’d want to take the family in a long road trip in anyway.

  • avatar

    Golf bags would not be my main concern. But how am I supposed to transport my baguettes and beer crates with this variant of a dorkmobile?
    Probably, they will offer an equally stylish trailer for that.

  • avatar
    Lexingtonian

    There’s a fundamental difference why EVs coming to the market in the near future aren’t going to duplicate the gas-powered line up:
     
    An EV is, at least from the American perspective, a second car.
     
    They aren’t (yet) set up for the odd road trip out of town, and until they are, for the typical American consumer, they’re a second vehicle.  As such, there’s not much point in trying to compete with the Camry.  Expecting Nissan to follow up the Leaf with a Camry-competitor is crazy at this level of maturity of EV technology; if they’re going to build new vehicles on the technology, it’s going to have to be somewhere they can compete.  This may or may not be in the glorified golf cart arena (as I’m far from convinced this will actually come to market in the US), but simply not going after the Camry where the underlying technology can’t compete isn’t a step backwards.
     
    On the other hand, the Infiniti EV seems to target something like the Miata – another second car, and another place where the technology can credibly compete.  And, hell, sign me up for a small, light car with a sporty suspension and a flat torque curve.

  • avatar

    3rd vehicle, only used to hit the inner city swankage or Saturday grocery, maybe for the kids to get to a correct school.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    I’ve seen bigger strollers at the Saturday farmers’ market…

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      Yes, but now that HELOCs aren’t so easy to get, little Tyler Connor and Aspen Sydnye will be downsizing to regular strollers like the rest of us until mommy can actually make some commission from her Realtwhore job again – maybe in the year 2021.

  • avatar
    cmoibenlepro

    It could be interesting if it costs less than $10,000.
    But I guess it will cost much more.

  • avatar
    ChesterChi

    Maybe in 5 years, gas costs $8/gallon or maybe there are huge lines at gas stations like during the oil embargo in the 1970s.

    In that situation, I would much prefer to drive to work in one of these, instead of
    (1) riding the bus (which would be overcrowded in that situation),
    (2) riding my bicycle every day (I do that sometimes, but it takes 45 minutes and there are hills) or
    (3) not being able to go to work at all.

    In that situation, insisting on an Escalade isn’t going to get you very far.

    But of course, we will never ever run out of oil, and gas will always be below $4/gallon.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    Does Nissan have some kind of corporate ugliness standard now? Because I can’t see mere incompetence resulting in the 370, Juke, and now this…

  • avatar

    Well, at least it doubles the Peapods top speed.

  • avatar
    Jerith

    Where are the fork lifts on the front?


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