Auto Tech

EV plays key role in Nissan's plan

Automotive News reports on Nissan's new model plans.

Automotive News

As improbable as it may seem, a mass-market electric car has taken center stage at Nissan Motor.

The Nissan brand remains committed to its traditional sedans, coupes, and light trucks. But Nissan also is banking on large-volume sales of affordable electric vehicles, beginning with the 2011 Leaf.

Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf will be a mass-market electric vehicle. Nissan

In a May interview, Brian Carolin, senior vice president for North American sales and marketing, said Nissan may create electric versions of its existing big sellers, such as the Altima.

"By the middle of the next decade, or 2015, something on the order of 10 percent of our volume will be EV," Carolin said. "We will see some unique standalone EV vehicles. But in the second generation will come the decision to take an existing vehicle and move the powertrain from internal combustion to EV."

Here are Nissan's vehicle plans for the 2010-12 model years.

Leaf: The 2011 Leaf is Nissan's entry into electric-vehicle technology. The five-door hatchback's 80-kilowatt electric motor delivers 206 pounds-feet of torque and a top speed of around 90 mph. The lithium ion batteries will provide a 100-mile range on a full charge. Nissan says the Leaf can be charged up to 80 percent of its capacity in 30 minutes with a quick charger.

The batteries initially will be produced in Japan at a joint venture with NEC Corp., but Nissan will begin making both cars and batteries in Smyrna, Tenn., in 2012.

Nissan has not set the car's price, but the company says it will compete with other mass-market cars in the $25,000-to-$30,000 range.

Versa: The 2010 Versa sees a midcycle freshening with a new grille that draws on the Altima's styling cues. Antilock brakes and stability control are now standard on the 1.8 SL model. A redesign is due for the 2012 model year.

Sentra: The 2010 Sentra receives a freshening with new headlights, taillights, grille, and fascia. Stability control is added as standard equipment on the 2.0 SL, SE-R and SE-R Spec V models.

Model changes for 2011 and 2012 are under review. Nissan is looking at economic conditions and the potential impact on sales of the electric Leaf, which is in the Sentra's size class.

Cube: The boxy 2010 Cube debuted in April.

Altima: The 2010 Altima is freshened with styling changes to the grille and fascias similar to the Maxima's. Nissan will pitch value packages.

A Nissan-engineered Altima hybrid will debut in the 2012 model year. The current hybrid adapted a Toyota system.

Maxima: A plan to put a Renault-developed diesel V-6 into the 2010 Maxima has been postponed because of proposed emissions regulations in California.

370Z: The redesigned 2010 370Z coupe arrived in January; the convertible goes on sale in September.

Two transmissions are offered: a seven-speed automatic and a six-speed manual with Nissan's SynchroRev. During manual upshifts or downshifts, the system detects what gear the driver is aiming for and lowers engine revs, resulting in smoother shifts.

A hybrid is under study for the 2012 model year. But insiders say the project might go nowhere because it would inflate the sticker price of a model branded as an affordable alternative to more expensive sports cars.

GT-R: Nissan's high-end performance car arrived last year. Horsepower is boosted to 485 for the 2010 model from 480. The transmission control module has been reprogrammed to provide quicker shifts and faster acceleration.

Rogue: No significant changes to the crossover are planned through the 2012 model year.

Murano: The crossover was redesigned last year; significant changes are at least four years away.

Xterra: No significant changes are planned to the SUV through the 2012 model year.

Pathfinder: The redesigned 2012 Pathfinder SUV moves to the Nissan Patrol platform to reduce costs. Expect a more robust Pathfinder, with slightly larger dimensions and more engine power, as Nissan prepares to drop the Armada.

Armada: The SUV faces certain death after the 2010 model year.

Frontier: Nissan added side and curtain airbags to all 2010 Frontier models; stability control is standard on V-6 models. A redesign of the small pickup is due after the 2012 model year.

Titan: Nissan's plan for Chrysler to engineer and assemble the next-generation Titan pickup was canceled last week. The pickup was to be styled by Nissan.

The new Titan had been scheduled to be produced from 2011 until 2017 or 2018. Chrysler's plant in Saltillo, Mexico, had been expected to assemble the truck.

Nissan now has three options: It could seek a product-sharing arrangement with a different partner, although none is in the wings. Nissan could continue building the Titan as a low-volume contender. Or it could simply leave the full-size pickup segment.

Quest: A redesign of the minivan is scheduled for the 2011 model year. The next-generation Quest will be based on the upscale Elgrand that Nissan sells in Japan and--if the name is kept--imported from Japan.

(Source: Automotive News)