We met Nissan’s man ‘in-charge’, Gareth Dunsmore, at the Paris Motor Show to discuss where electric power goes next
To date, Nissan’s electric cars have found homes with some 250,000 customers worldwide which may not sound much in global car production terms (Nissan sold 5.4m cars in 2015), but the Leaf is the world’s best-selling all-electric car.
From this, Nissan has been able to listen to, learn from and adapt to customer feedback they have received. That’s feedback and experience from over 2.5 billion kilometres travelled (1.55 billion miles) on battery power alone. It allows the firm to stay at the forefront of this rapidly growing and potentially dominating sector.
As a brand, Nissan’s vision is to emit zero emissions and it continues to endeavour to improve aero efficiency and reduce the weight of its cars.
At the Paris Motor Show, alongside the debut of the new Micra, Nissan reaffirmed its bolder green strategy called Intelligent Mobility. So, what does that actually mean? We met with Gareth Dunsmore, Electric Vehicle Divisional General Manager at Nissan Europe SAS, at the Show to dig a little deeper.
“This is effectively where your electric car becomes part of the national grid. Plug your car into your charge point and it becomes part of the electricity framework, allowing bi-directional flow of electricity to and from your car,” explained Dunsmore.
Essentially your car becomes a storage facility for electricity and can, when called upon, provide power back to the main grid. That’s cool but why would you want to do that?
By exchanging electricity, it’s a bit like how the banks balance the books at the end of trading. Some banks will end the day up (have surplus cash) and some down (need an overdraft). They then swap money to level out, as the benefits of having the surplus are minimal while the charges for having too little (going into your overdraft) is rather expensive.
So by comparison, your car will provide energy to the network when there is a shortfall, rather than it having to burn more fuel to make up the deficit. The benefit for you is the potential to earn €50 per week from doing nothing but plugging in your car.
An Eton Xstorage home storage system which costs around €4000, uses a Smart meter to manage the flow of energy to and from your car. The system will ensure that your car recharges when electricity costs are at their lowest, which could save you between €1000-1500 per year.
You could save and make enough money to offset the cost of the Eton Xstorage system within the first 12 months of ownership.
“The potential is there to do something very special. If every car in the UK was electric and linked to the network, there would be enough power for the UK, Germany and France for a whole day,” added Dunsmore with excitement.
Currently, trials are underway with Enel, an Italian manufacturer and distributor of electricity and gas, for vehicle-to-grid technology in Denmark and the UK.
He continued: “Our second strategy is energy conservation. Holland currently produces more renewable energy than it can use or store, so it is going to waste. So, we propose that once the eight-year warranty of our customer batteries expires, they can sell the batteries back to Nissan for between €1000-2000. We will then reuse the batteries for a further eight to ten years to store some of the excess energy.”
Asked what the main barriers for buyers considering an electric car are, Dunsmore said: “The perception of electrical and hybrid technology is softening. More investment is still needed, especially for on-street charging and supermarket car park points, however, we now have charging points in 96% of the UK’s service stations and 3800 quick chargers throughout Europe.”
Nissan’s current electric range includes the Leaf five-door hatchback and e-NV200 commercial van. Surprisingly there are no plans to add electric power to the all-new Nissan Micra, although it has been designed to incorporate the tech. Next year’s Qashqai may also be the same scenario but Driver’s Seat feels this position will change in the near future.
The biggest hurdle for buyers moving into all-electric cars continues to be driving range on a single charge (Leaf 155 miles), recharging times and perceived higher purchase costs.
“We need buyers to understand three key concepts; one – the benefits of the product, two – that electric cars are cheaper to run, and three that it’s environmentally cleaner,” Dunsmore concluded.
Concerns, however, remain over whether the electric car industry could survive a ‘Dieselgate’ type scare once emissions from source (power station or hydroelectric plant) must be specified rather than emissions just from the car.
What we can say, is that the more Gareth Dunsmores there are in the automotive and the energy consumption industry, the better for the rest of us. His enthusiasm, passion and determination will hopefully win through.