Unimpressed by BYD’s aborting of the pure plug-in EV, Nissan is betting the farm on us plugging in instead of gassing up. A few days ago, Nissan officially introduced the Leaf, the world’s first mass-produced EV in the standard passenger class, seating five. It won’t totally replace the internal combustion engine, at least not at the plant where it is made.
When the Leaf went “offline” a few days ago (this is one of the many quirks in the industry: offline good, online bad), reporters had a chance to marvel at the engineering. The Nikkei [sub] reports that “Leaf assembly was taking place on the same line as Nissan’s popular Juke mini-SUV and other compacts. At the station where gasoline-powered cars receive their fuel tanks, the Leaf gets its lithium-ion battery pack, and at the engine-mounting station it receives its electric motor.” At the Nissan’s Oppama plant in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Leafs and other cars share the same line, all they needed was a special lift for the battery packs, which weigh several hundred kilograms.
Nissan has big plans for the Leaf. Using the Oppama principle to build various models on the same line simultaneously, Nissan will start mass-producing the Leaf at its Smyrna Plant in the U.S. in late 2012 and at its Sunderland Plant in the U.K. in early 2013. Once that is all in motion, Nissan will have an annual capacity of 250,000 EVs worldwide.
The also will produce lots of batteries, and they hope to “gradually compress the cost of mass-producing batteries by having both Nissan and Renault produce EVs,” said Corporate Vice President Hideaki Watanabe.
Nissan’s dream? To become for EVs what Toyota became for hybrids. “Today, hybrid technology is almost synonymous with Toyota,” says the Nikkei. Ghosn says the Prius has been more significant to Toyota as a brand-booster than as a contributor to sales, and he hopes the Leaf will similarly electrify the perception of Nissan.
Likewise, should the Leaf turn into compost, it could bring Nissan down. Betting the farm is risky. You could end up with two farms. Or as a homeless.