Monday, October 6, 2008

Nissan Electric Car May Come to Portland Oregon

I was lucky enough to be part of a small focus group for Nissan. Several Nissan VPs and program managers were there including one from Japan. They are working on an electric vehicle and wanted to hear what types of features we current EV drivers would find useful. They didn't give us any privileged information, I didn't have to sign any non-disclosure agreement, so I can share the interesting bits here with you.


Nissan is working on a pure battery electric vehicle. It will _not_ be a hybrid or a range extended vehicle like the Chevy Volt. The car will likely be a variation of the Cube (currently sold in Japan as a gas car). If you have not seen it, it looks similar to the boxy Scion xB. The car would go 75MPH and have a 100 mile range.

They are considering Stumptown for several reasons: due to our urban growth boundaries, it is relatively compact, you could drive from the west-side suburbs of Beaverton or Hillsboro to the east-side suburb or Gresham and back on a single charge; Portland General Electric is installing charging stations all around the greater Portland area. There is one downtown, one at OMSI, one in Lake Oswego (Portland's southern suburb) and nine more planned. And over 30 businesses that have expressed interest in installing charging spots. Portlanders are also an eco minded lot in general. Portland recently ranked as the #1 sustainable city in the US and #2 globally. We also had more hybrid cars per capita than any other city until recently when Montara Ca. took that crown. With our abundant hydro and wind, Portland also has a relatively clean power-grid, thus alleviating the long tailpipe concern. 

Here are some of the suggestions that I gave to Nissan.

Don't over hype the capabilities. My vehicle only has a 50 mile range, this Nissan vehicle will, reportedly, have twice that range. Most people drive less than 40 miles per day so 100 miles will suffice for most people, most days, but it not suffice for all people or for all use-cases. It should be marketed for what it can do and not as a be-all car. Make only credible claims. There have been a lot of fly-bye night EV companies making wild claims. Please deliver what you promise and only promise what you can deliver.
Even with this great range, some people are going to be concerned about it. This must be addressed. Here are my ideas to alleviate "range anxiety":

Have a partnership with a car rental program like ZipCar. There will be times when someone will want a weekend get-away or need to drive to Seattle or Grants Pass or somewhere else when a 100 mile range will not reach and charging is either not available or not convenient. There are zipcars all around Portland so they are convenient to use. See the video in the link below.

Have an in-dash navigation system that is "Battery Smart".  Meaning that it knows your destination, location and route, and it knows how much charge you have left.  So it should be able to tell you if you can make it with your current juice, how much charge you'll have left when you get there and suggest charging points are along your route. Additionally, a find nearest charging station button should be prominent.

I hope Nissan does deliver.  We need a change in how we fuel our transportation. While still maintaining the liberty of hopping behind the wheel and driving where you like that most American are accustom to.

1 comment:

hesslei said...

The Nissan Motor Company has announced plans to sell an electric car in the U.S. and Japan by 2010. Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Goshn said the company expects to sell a broad range of electric vehicles globally by 2012, beginning with a small number, in the hundreds of vehicles, in the U.S.


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hesslei

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