March 25, 2013
LEAF’s Open Road: EV owners in Osaka
March 25, 2013 – Osaka – Spring in western Japan brought out many shades of Nissan LEAF to the Kansai University campus – as well as discussions on new EV developments, from new markets to improved technology.
The LEAF owners’ event attracted more than 300 people and about 100 LEAFs to Osaka.
Owners from as far away as Yokohama to Yamagata in the northeastern Tohoku region, drove with families to talk with each other and Nissan executives, including CEO Carlos Ghosn.
Ghosn reinforced Nissan’s commitment to EVs and infrastructure, met with owners and their families, and chatted with students.
With more than 54,000 EVs sold to date, Ghosn says Nissan’s priority is to continue to increase sales and China is on the horizon as a position for Nissan’s leadership in the EV market.
“When the government has said that they want 2 million electric cars in 2020 in China, we will do everything we can in order to be in the leadership in this important position,” said Ghosn.” This means you can expect to see the new electric cars from Nissan to be localized very soon.”
That means Chinese owners might soon enjoy the advantages of EVs shared by many in Osaka.
Kenichi Imai and his son Kota drove 1,000 kms from Yamagata.
“If you step on the pedal, the acceleration is quick. And you can run the vehicle during setsuden [brownout], and it runs at about one-tenth the cost of a gasoline-powered car. That running cost has been reduced is the most important change since we bought the car.”
The Asaoka family drove from Aichi prefecture, about 200 kms away on two charges, which they said underscored its economy and ecology.
“Gasoline prices are expensive. It’s cheaper to use electricity,” said Sakura Asaoka. “Also because it’s ‘eco’, a trend that’s caught on worldwide. So, we thought to stop using gas and go electric.”
Despite all of the travel from the far reaches of Japan, Chief Vehicle Engineer Hidetoshi Kadota admits customers’ range-anxiety and battery capacity remain top issues for Nissan.
“If you talk to the LEAF owners here today, they want more range. So, whatever we can do to change the car, the battery, the system – especially the battery, we are developing ways to improve it beyond its current capacity.”
As battery technology improves, so will charging methods and wireless is one option.
Masashi Ishikawa, Director of the Organization for Research and Development of Innovative Science and Technology at Kansai University, says the battery is the most difficult problem for car makers to resolve – but also the one that allows for the most creativity.
“There’s the potential for a lot of spin out technologies. If you do something difficult from the outset, there’s always diversion. It’s a very creative aspect for EVs.”
Wireless charging isn’t limited to when the car is stationary, as induction can occur when the car is in motion.
“In Japan, along highways and other roads where the speed limit is about 80 kms per hour, if one were to reduce speed a little, charging could occur while driving through the lanes,” said Ishikawa. “I think that that kind of technology is necessary.”
Improved batteries? New charging technologies and new markets?
While EVs have come a long way since the Tama in 1947, owners and executives alike would agree that the path ahead is all open road.