Nissan’s New Chief: A 300-Mile EV Is Planned for 2020

By · April 10, 2017

Nissan LEAF

Hiroto Saikawa, Nissan’s new chief executive who took office on April 1, said the company would revitalize its electric-car program. In an interview with Automotive News published today, Saikawa said the turnaround would begin with the next-generation LEAF, which is due before the end of 2017. Unfortunately, Saikawa did not indicate how much range the next-generation LEAF would have. Instead, he kicked the can down the road—to 2020.

Saikawa said that a future Nissan model (or models)—expected in three to four years—would provide about 300 miles on a single charge. “It will have a usable range of 300 miles,” he said. “I believe that the technology will take us there.” Saikawa believes that offering longer range will make Nissan electric cars competitive with traditional vehicles in the United States. He did not say if Nissan would use the LEAF nameplate for a new and improved EV.

Nissan admits that the company has fallen behind on EVs. "Five or six years ago, we were looked at as a kind of adventurous company, moving into an area where nobody was expecting us to move," said Philippe Klein, Nissan Chief Planning Officer, in an interview in January. “Now you have a lot of players making big announcements, and we are looked at like laggards."

It appears that Nissan is ceding leadership in this decade to General Motors with its long-range Volt plug-in hybrid and all-electric 238-mile Chevy Bolt—and to Tesla with its upcoming Tesla Model 3 affordable electric sedan.

Saikawa put his focus on a future phase of electric vehicles, in the period between 2020 and 2025. That’s when he said the number of all-electric models would proliferate and the competition for EV buyers will not be based on a technology advantage, but how carmakers use that technology as an integral part of its business. “It will be a competition of how aggressively you can deploy the [electric] portfolio across the models,” he said. “We would like to be on the aggressive side, the leading side."

Then, the appeal of EVs according to Saikawa will be like all other vehicles—based on brand attributes, design, and driving characteristics.

“The real evolution will come when we have a serious plan for the substitution of existing powertrains,” said Saikawa. He suggested that many of Nissan’s major models, including the Rogue, Qashqai, and X-Trail, will be available as an EV. “This is the time I’m talking about,” he said. “Maybe 2025.”

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