Nissan executives have unveiled their vision for where electric cars might go in the future. Building on the technology they've brought to market with the Leaf, they are promising "a fresh electric vehicle driving experience based on peerless technology and exotic styling" with the BladeGlider concept.
With its narrow, 1.0 meter lightweight front track and wide, stable rear track, BladeGlider looks as if it could have sprung from a "skunk works" project. But the radical architecture all boils down to aerodynamics and balance. Having the front wheels close together reduces drag and enhances maneuverability for high G cornering power, assisted by its 30/70 front/rear weight distribution ratio.
The electricity-powered car, hailed by many as the vehicle of the future, will remain just that, a prominent industry consultant said this morning at a local industry conference.
"Electrification makes no commercial sense," Kim Korth, president and CEO of IRN Inc., told attendees of the first AutoConnect gathering organized by law firm Frost Brown Todd. "It will be a teeny microniche for the foreseeable future."
Electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf will account for a relatively bigger share of the market in some of the world's largest and densest urban areas, Korth added. But she's not buying some forecasts that have electric cars making up 7 percent of light-vehicle sales within a decade.
Automakers have rolled out or are planning to introduce about 20 electric models to the U.S. market. Since the end of 2010, consumers have bought almost 140,000 pure-electric or hybrid-electric cars, according to the Electric Drive Transportation Association. So far in 2013, the trade group says electric cars have accounted for 3.9 percent of total sales.
While skeptical about the potential for that number to grow, Korth — who is based in Grand Rapids, Mich. — told AutoConnect attendees that another emerging technology is set to have a big impact on the auto sector. Autonomous vehicles, she said, will change the industry and how many of us move around in a big way. As the technology matures, don't be surprised if the features that we take for granted today — such as pedals, instrument panels and buttons — disappear. Instead, cars' interiors will increasingly resemble living rooms.
Nissan will between now and next April install quick chargers for its Leaf electric car at more than 100 dealerships in 21 cities around the country. The units will be able to charge an empty battery to 80 percent capacity in half an hour. A company spokesman said the list of dealerships that will get quick chargers hasn't been finalized, but Nashville is set to get some. Middle Tennessee is the No. 7 market in the country in Leaf sales. Through the first half of this year, Nissan sold 9,839 models in the U.S., more than in all of 2012.
Nissan has donated six of its Leaf electric cars to New York for a pilot taxi program. One big question the city and the Leaf drivers will look to answer: How do you accommodate an electric car's charging needs related to a taxicab's full day of work?
Talking to reporters last week, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said many consumers still don't have enough trust in electric-car technology to buy a Leaf or one of its competitors. But he says the auto maker's $5 billion bet on electric cars is still the way to go and that the Leaf's slow ramp "isn't going to shake the foundation of Nissan."
Tennessee is emerging as a major state for electric car usage, according to San Francisco-based electric transportation and storage technologies company ECOtality.
ECOtality, which operates one of the nation's largest electric vehicle charging networks and is recognized for its Blink electric vehicle chargers, has released Q4 2012 findings that show the following:
• On average, Nissan Leaf drivers in Knoxville utilize public infrastructure at a higher percentage rate than seen in any other region across the country, followed by San Francisco and Los Angeles.
• The average Leaf driver travels 29.2 miles per day. The average Leaf driver in Knoxville travels 33.4 while those in Nashville travel, on average, 32.2. The second and third highest averages in the country respectively.
• Nationwide, the average Chevrolet Volt driver travels 40.5 miles per day. The average Volt driver in Knoxville travels 45.1 while those in Nashville travel 43.1. The highest and third highest in the country respectively.
If you’re a green-conscious consumer who has wanted to “go electric” with your choice of vehicle but have hesitated due to cost considerations, check this: Nissan has announced its 2013 LEAF S series cars will be priced starting at $28,800, making the LEAF the least expensive five-passenger electric vehicle sold in the United States, according to Nissan.
Depending on location, some consumers may purchase the vehicle for as little as $18,800 with qualifying federal and state tax credits, putting the LEAF on par price-wise with gas-powered vehicles of its size.
By comparison, the 2012 LEAF started at $35,200.
Two quick hits on the current state of and future prospects for electric car adoption: First, Brad Tuttle at Time says the rollout of new models by Chevrolet and Fiat as well as the increased production of batteries should help lower prices and bring more consumers in the market. But, he adds, that won't create a legion of evangelists; too many people are still not looking past the pitfalls of electric-car technology. Secondly, Steve LeVine at Quartz points out that energy giant ExxonMobil is projecting that electric cars will account for a tenth of all sales in 2040.
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