Nissan Shows Off Its Electric Car and New Hybrid
The electric Cube was pretty nimble on the test track, but the new hybrid raises as many questions as it answers
by Ian Rowley
I just got back from driving Nissan's (NSANY) much hyped new electric car and hybrid. The press event, held in searing heat at an advanced technology showcase 90 minutes outside Tokyo, was the first chance that reporters have had to check out the Japanese automaker's new environmental techs.
Most seemed pretty impressed at the electric vehicle, although it's hard to draw too many conclusions. The version we drove was an electric version of a Nissan Cube, a popular model in Japan. However, the company says its EV, which is scheduled for a 2010 launch in Japan and the U.S., will use the same electric system but look completely different from any of today's Nissans.
On the test track, the Cube was pretty nimble, quickly reaching 100km/h on a short straight, despite carrying four passengers. One bad point was the bulk of the batteries—at 300kg—under the rear seats. That meant they were raised higher than normal and not comfortable for those in the back. Still, it's safe to assume the problem will be ironed out by the time the final version appears.
Upbeat About Lithium-Ion Batteries
On a more positive note, Nissan seems very upbeat about its lithium-ion battery technology. While Honda (HMC) and Toyota (TM) are reluctant to use li-ion cells in new hybrids (save a low-volume lease version of the Prius due for 2010), citing safety concerns, Nissan is confident that its batteries, which are half the weight and offer significantly improved performance over the current nickel metal hydride cells, will help it claw back some ground in the hybrid race and make it an EV leader.