Japan Tackles Electric Car Infrastructure Predicaments. Manufacturers Lower Prices

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
japan tackles electric car infrastructure predicaments manufacturers lower prices

Japan appears to get extremely serious about all-electric cars. What stands in the way of their success? Apart from the price (we’ll get to that later:) It’s the infrastructure, stupid. Fabricating, fuelling, and fixing an ICE-powered car is supported by an infrastructure that had more than 100 years to grow. Keeping a plug-in running needs an infrastructure to guarantee mobility away from the charger at home. Japan’s Environment Ministry teams up with Nissan, Sumitomo, and other companies to build the infrastructure for electric vehicles, reports The Nikkei [sub].

Apart from the most obvious – building charging stations – there are some solutions to questions that haven’t been addressed so far. Don’t worry (or do) those questions will surely come up. For instance, what happens if you are on the road and run out of juice? With an ICE, you can trek to the next gas station, and come back with a gallon or two. With a plug-in? Currently, you need a tow. Think about it. You’ll develop a serious case of range anxiety if you think this through.

To solve that issue, Nissan will develop a truck that will give emergency charges – good for 10km or 6 miles – to electric cars that strayed too far from a plug. Then, drivers can use their car navigation system, co-developed by Nissan and Yasukawa, that shows them the way to the nearest charging station.

Orix Auto will help design a car-sharing system.

Nissan will also test a system for collecting and recycling lithium ion batteries together with NTT Facilities and Sumitomo.

Did we mention price? There is movement on that front also. In a separate story, The Nikkei [sub] sees signs “of an emerging price war in electric vehicles.” Mitsubishi Motors will lower the suggested retail price of its i-MiEV by about 620,000 yen ($6,700.) The new price is 3.98m yen ($43,000.) After generous government subsidies, the car will cost 2.84 million yen ($30,000). Nissan answered that their Leaf electric car, which will come out in December, will cost 2.99 million yen ($32,000) after subsidies are deducted. Jeez, that’s what the car will cost in the U.S.A. before subsidies are deducted.

Mitsubishi just began full retail sales of its i-MiEV. Their planning is conservative. They want to sell 9,000 in the new fiscal year that begins April 1. Nissan is more aggressive. They want to produce about 50,000 Leafs a year in Japan, and plan to begin mass production in the U.S. in 2012 and the U.K. in 2013.

Nevertheless, price remains a serious issue. Said Koji Endo, managing director at Advanced Research Japan: “For electric vehicles to really catch on, the actual cost for consumers needs to be 2 million yen or less.” That would be around $21,000, and sounds about right.

Government subsidies will not last forever. Also in Japan, customers need to wait three to six months until they get their subsidy, which means that they have to front 4 million yen. That and the pesky infrastructure problems will make the all-electric plug-in much less than a run-away hit for the foreseeable future.

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6 of 26 comments
  • David C. Holzman David C. Holzman on Mar 31, 2010

    People will adjust behaviorally to the range thing, they'll plug in where-ever they can, and they won't get stuck. Well, most of them won't. But it will kill a lot of spontaneity. And teenagers and young adults will get stuck. I had a nightmare once about a world of electric cars. @JMO: so let Hawaiians drive EVs! (with apologies to Marie Antoinette)

    • Syke Syke on Mar 31, 2010

      And . . . . . a whole new etiquette will develop regarding emergency recharging while away from one's own, or a commercial, charging station. Lots of do's and don'ts. And it won't be any bigger a deal than what developed regarding ATM's.

  • Dhathewa Dhathewa on Mar 31, 2010

    There is a cure for range anxiety: http://www.evnut.com/rav_longranger.htm

    • See 2 previous
    • Steve65 Steve65 on Apr 07, 2010

      Now THERE is a spectacularly good idea. A pure bev for everyday use, convertible to a series hybrid for long range travel. Genius.

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂