Tech Insights

Nissan Finally Returns to Electric Vehicles

April 12, 2023 by Kevin Clemens

The Japanese company has announced 19 all-electric models to be built by 2030.

Nissan was one of the first major car companies to get serious about electric vehicles (EVs). The Nissan Leaf was launched in Japan and the U.S. in December 2010. The five-door hatchback differed from the so-called “compliance” EVs that other major carmakers sold to meet California’s zero-emission regulations. Those early Leaf EVs offered a 73-mile range and, unlike many of the compliance cars, could be useful for commuting and daily urban and suburban travel. It wasn’t until Tesla introduced the Model S in mid-2012 that a more practical and useful EV was available in the U.S. 

 

Nissan Leaf. Image used courtesy of Nissan

 

In 2017, the Leaf was redesigned with some restyling, a larger battery, and faster charging. Range eventually reached 226 miles on a full charge. From 2011 to 2014, the Nissan Leaf was the world’s best-selling EV. In 2015, it lost that title to the Tesla Model S. By February 2022, total global sales of the Leaf reached 577,000 cars. 

 

Nissan Dropped the Ball

The Nissan Leaf was a successful start to electrification for Nissan. It’s fair to say Nissan squandered that early success through an inexplicable failure to follow through on the Leaf with a lack of other mainstream EVs. Meanwhile, Tesla, Nissan’s only real competitor in the early EV years, built on its strengths, building a range of EVs. In early 2020, the Tesla Model 3 became the best-selling EV in history, surpassing the Leaf.  

In 2022, Nissan launched an electric crossover called the Ariya in the U.S. with both front-wheel and all-wheel drive available. The base front-wheel-drive version has a 216-mile range and starts at $44,485, while the longest-range all-wheel-drive version has a 304-mile range and a $61,000 price tag. Meanwhile, the Leaf is still available with a 215-mile range and a price starting at $28,040. 

 

Nissan Ariya. Image used courtesy of Nissan

 

Building on the Leaf

Nissan will finally leverage its successful Leaf EV with its recent announcement that it will build 27 new electrified models (eight of which will be hybrids with both gasoline and electric motor drive) by 2030. The company has said that 80 percent of its sales will be fully battery-electric by 2030. To do so, Nissan has announced the development of its X-in-1 modular electric powertrain that will allow its EVs to share core drivetrain, battery, and electronic components. 

 

Image used courtesy of Nissan

 

Nissan’s goal is to reduce EV costs by 30 percent (compared to 2019). To do so, it will modularize the motor, inverter, and reducer (gear drive). The integration also promises to improve performance, reduce weight and size, and produce reduced noise and vibration levels, according to the company. The newly developed electric traction motor also reduces the use of rare earth elements in its permanent magnets to 1 percent of the magnet weight.

 

Real Electric Vehicle Growth

Nissan is serious about its EV future. In 2021, the company predicted that EVs would make up 40 percent of its sales in 2026. That number is now 44 percent and, starting in 2024, Nissan EVs will be specifically designed for different markets. The company released its EV sales forecast by region for 2026:

  • Europe: 98% (up from 75% in its 2021 forecast)
  • Japan: 58% (up from 55% in its 2021 forecast)
  • China: 35% (down from 40% in its 2021 forecast)
  • United States: 40% (EV only by 2030)

Nissan is also working on its Connected Car Service to match its customers’ needs more closely—the strategy has already been introduced on the Nissan Ariya model.  Nissan is also in the process of remaking its two-decade-old alliance with Renault to further define and develop a worldwide EV strategy.