Nissan to Offer Electric Car in 2010

Posted: August 7, 2008

While Honda and Toyota prepare to battle for hybrid supremacy, Nissan has decided to simply skip that step and become the first major automaker to sell a mainstream electric car. 

The AP reports, "Nissan showed on Wednesday a spiffy electric car packed with a battery developed by the Japanese automaker to deliver more power than the type common in today's hybrids.  The electric vehicle, set for sale in 2010, carried a 300 kilogram (660 pounds) lithium-ion battery and still zipped around a Nissan Motor Co. test course, accelerating more quickly than comparable gas-engine cars." 

We have no idea, however, what the production car will look like.  The model shown to the press was a Nissan Cube -- a small wagon resembling a Scion xB that Nissan hopes to bring to the U.S. market in 2010.  But the automaker said in a press release, "The production vehicle to be introduced in 2010 will have a unique body style and is not based on any existing Nissan model."

Edmunds Inside Line adds, "Details such as cruising range are yet to be determined."  While automakers often release new technologies in Asian or European markets first and bring them to the U.S. several years later, we may get Nissan's electric car early.  "The Nissan electric vehicle is set to go on sale in Japan and the U.S. in 2010 and globally by 2012."

That puts it in direct competition with the next-generation Toyota Prius, and Chevy's hybrid Volt.

For auto junkies, the biggest surprise in the debut was the sight of a working lithium-ion battery.  The Washington Post explains, "Better known as the energy source of choice for most laptop computers, cell phones and other portable electronic gadgets, lithium ion batteries are now being eyed by the automotive industry for use in vehicles."  While many manufacturers are believed to be developing lithium-ion cells, they have proven notoriously difficult to tame.  Built large enough to power a car, they tend to overheat.  Nissan, however, says it has developed a new series of li-ion cells that are nearly ready for production.  This new battery is constructed of "laminated cells that are stacked on top of each other inside batteries."  The cells "are just a few millimeters thick," enabling the automaker to build batteries of varying sizes and capacities easily.  "The laminated batteries also run cooler so they are much less likely to overheat."

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