Carlos Ghosn: The EV Will Set You Free (It's The Battery, Stupid)

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
carlos ghosn the ev will set you free it s the battery stupid

crisis and opportunity were one and the same.

Now this is Nissan and Carlos Ghosn who has bet a farm in France and one in Japan on the future of the electric car. Ghosn made a few points today that are well worth noting. He talked about nukes, CO2, blackouts – and batteries.

At the end of his prepared statements, Ghosn said:

“Thanks to the early success of the Nissan Leaf, Nissan has become the undisputed leader in sustainability, propelling the automotive industry to a future that no longer relies on a single, non-renewable resource.”

That was ignored by the press as the usual fluff and hyperbola. That is unfortunate, because there is a gem in it.

In the following Q&A, a reporter from the Nippon Hoso radio station unwittingly stumbled over the gemstone. He asked a question that is being asked many times these days: Will the nuclear power disaster in Japan (and the knee-jerk reaction the world over) dent and scratch the image of the EV? The radioman received a surprising answer from Carlos Ghosn:

“What is the specific advantage of electric cars? They don’t rely on one single commodity for their power. You can make electricity out of many sources, wind, solar, natural gas, oil, coal, hydroelectric. The beauty of the electric car is if you have a problem with oil, or you have a problem with nuclear, or you have a problem with coal, you just have to change the source of the electricity. We have transportation that is not depending on one single commodity. If there is a problem with nuclear, or a problem with oil, or a problem with coal, the superiority of the electric car is that it is not stuck. Because you can create electricity from so many sources, the electric car is really the car for the future.”

Of course that switching can’t be done overnight. But it can be done in a much shorter timeframe than, say, moving all cars from gasoline to hydrogen. Building new power plants takes a few years. Building a new infrastructure takes decades at best. Now what to do during the times of the switchover to alternate sources?

This being Japan, a reporter from the Asahi Shimbun put it in the appropriately courteous words: “When there is a blackout, charging may be difficult. This may be a concern that may rise.”

Carlos Ghosn waved his arms in his inimitable way (it used startle the common Japanese, who are keeping their hands to their side, but in the meantime, they warmed up to it), and he answered:

“It is true if you have a blackout and you want to charge your car, you can’t. But the beauty of the electric car is that you can charge your car whenever you want. In the contrary, if you have a blackout, you can now use your car to light your house. The non-reliability of electricity made the battery a very important element. Now the battery becomes a place where you can store energy. So if you have a blackout, you can use a battery that is in your car.”

But then, if we shut down the nukes and go back to thermoelectric, won’t that create more CO2, asked the man from Asahi in a much more polite way than I can write. Ghosn’s answer:

”I don’t think that the last word has been spoken in terms of energy, In the next 10 or 20 years, we will see a lot of development in terms of energy. Less CO2 generation, more renewable energy is coming on stream. But one thing is common to all of these developments: We need to store energy. And the only way we can store energy is by developing the batteries. And here we are at the heart of the electrical car technical challenge. And that is what we are pursuing. We don’t think that anything that will happen in terms of energy will stop or reduce the importance of the battery as a unique way to store energy, no matter where this energy is generated from.”

Nissan and Renault are building factories in the UK, the U.S, and Portugal which will be able to produce a total of 500,000 batteries per years by 2015. By that time, 8 new EVs will be launched between Renault and Nissan. 500,000 batteries mean half a million EVs. Who will buy them by 2015? For instance the people that already make up Nissan’s largest market, and that deny license plates to conventional powered cars is their nation’s capital. Said Ghosn:

“As a zero emission leader, the Alliance is already better placed than its competitors to compete both in mature and emerging markets such as China, where environmental and regulatory realities as well as consumer demand are expected to dramatically increase the market share of electric cars.”

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  • Edward Niedermeyer Edward Niedermeyer on May 12, 2011

    That's not Carlos Ghosn, that's Arturo Toscanini! Great pics, interesting quote. Maybe Carlos read my post on Monday...

    • Bertel Schmitt Bertel Schmitt on May 12, 2011

      Well, as you read en passant in the NYT, there were (and are) Leafs in the stricken area. In the NYT piece, they receive short shrift over the iMiEV, which Ghosn doesn't even consider serious competition. To quote from yesterday: "Currently we have more than 5,000 Nissan Leafs on the road, making it by far the biggest fleet of cars built from the ground up to be fully electric. In fact, we have more than twice the amount of purpose built EVs than any other automaker has ever delivered so far.“ All majors have more or less quietly delivered cars up there. Toyota gave hybrids that were used as generators when there was no juice. Nissan gave Leafs for when there was electricity, but no gas. But apparently, the Mitsubishi guys had no qualms and got their car in the NYT. The picture in the NYT says in a split second what Ghosn explained yesterday in a few minutes. And he talks fast.

  • Beerboy12 Beerboy12 on May 12, 2011

    I am confused... Barak Obama says EV's are good and everyone has a fit, Carlos says EV's are good and all of a sudden they might just be a good thing after all.

  • Kat Laneaux Agree with Michael500, we wasted all that money just to bail out GM and they are developing these cars in China and other countries. What the heck. I understand the cheap labor but that is just another foothold the government has on their citizens and they already treat them like crap. That is pretty disgusting to go forward to put other peoples health and mental stability on a crazy crazed, control freak, leader, who is in bed with Russia. Thought about getting a buick but that just shot that one out of the park. All of this for the greed. They get what they lay in bed with. Disgusting.
  • Michael500 Good thing Obama used $50 billion of taxpayer money to bail them out and give unions a big stake. GM is headed to BK again with their Hail Mary hope of EVs. Hopefully a Republican in office will let them go BK the next time, and it's coming. The US economy is not related/dependent on GM and their Chinese made Buicks.
  • MaintenanceCosts "Rural areas hardly noticed COVID at all."I very much doubt that is true in places like the Navajo Nation or the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, some of which lost 2% or more of their population to COVID.No city had a death rate in the same order of magnitude.Low-density living is a very modern invention. Before cars, people, even in agricultural areas, needed to live densely to survive.
  • Wjtinfwb Always liked these MN12 cars and the subsequent Lincoln variant. But Ford, apparently strapped for resources or cash, introduced these half-baked. Very sophisticated chassis and styling, let down but antiquated old pushrod engines and cheap interiors. The 4.6L Modular V8 helped a bit, no faster than the 5.0 but extremely smooth and quiet. The interior came next, nicer wrap-around dash, airbags instead of the mouse belts and refined exterior styling. The Supercharged 3.8L V6 was potent, but kind of crude and had an appetite for head gaskets early on. Most were bolted to the AOD automatic, a sturdy but slow shifting gearbox made much better with electronic controls in the later days. Nice cars that in the right color, evoked the 6 series BMW, at least the Thunderbird did. Could have been great cars and maybe should have been a swoopy CLS style sedan. Pretty hard to find a decent one these days.
  • Inside Looking Out You should care. With GM will die America. All signs are there. How about the Arsenal of Democracy? Toyota?