As its broader “transformation” plan takes hold, Nissan Motor Co. said Monday it will invest 2 trillion yen, or nearly $18 billion, to electrify its line-up.
A decade ago, Nissan led the industry with the launch of the Leaf, the first mainstream battery-electric vehicle. But it has been surpassed by competitors like Tesla, Ford, Volkswagen and General Motors that have launched newer and longer-range models. Nissan is only now getting ready to roll out its second pure electric model, the Ariya SUV, into showrooms around the world.
The Ariya will be one of 23 “electrified” vehicles coming to market by 2030, including 15 all-electric models, CEO Makoto Uchida said during an online presentation. They will account for 50% of the global sales for the Nissan and Infiniti brands, he added, though that could reach as much as 65%, depending upon the market.
Making EVs more competitive
To support the Nissan Ambition 2030 program, Uchida and Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta said the carmaker will begin converting global assembly plants to handle electric vehicles. The company also plans to work with partners to significantly expand its battery production capacity, with a target of around 130 gigawatt-hours by decade’s end.
While that initially will focus on today’s standard lithium-ion technology, Nissan plans to invest 140 billion yen, or $1.23 billion, to develop solid-state batteries, launching a pilot plant in 2024. It aims to have them in mass production by 2028.
Solid-state batteries are expected to have numerous advantages, including higher energy density — which means more power in lighter, smaller packs as well as greater range, reduced risk of fire, and lower cost.
The goal, said Gupta, is to come in at $75 per kilowatt-hour by 2028, or 65% less than the batteries in the latest versions of the Nissan Leaf. The longer-term target is $65 per kWh, which would make a BEV comparable in cost to a vehicle using an internal combustion engine.
To make battery-based vehicles even more competitive, Nissan is working up lighter, more compact electric drive units, officials said. And, like Tesla and other competitors, it will use a dedicated, skateboard like platform that will see both batteries and key drive components mounted under a vehicle’s load floor.
“We will advance our effort to democratize electrification,” Uchida said during the online presentation in which he said Nissan will offer a “diverse range” of battery cars catering to future consumers.
The automaker offered three all-electric prototypes as examples of what it is working on:
- The Max-Out, a pint-sized roadster;
- The Hang-Out, a compact crossover that could serve as a mobile living room; and
- The Surf-Out, a mini pickup that could compete with the likes of the new Ford Maverick or Hyundai Santa Cruz.
These and other vehicles to come will likely be offered with Nissan’s semi-autonomous ProPilot, or an even more advanced, truly hands-free system, officials said.
“We have a 10-year head start over our competitors,” Uchida said during the nearly hour-long presentation.
But while the company was the first to bring an all-electric model to the mainstream market, it fell well behind key competitors as early, short-range models made way for long-range offerings like today’s Tesla Model S, Ford Mustang Mach-E and VW ID.4.
It took far longer to update the Leaf than former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn once promised, and the Ariya’s launch has repeatedly been pushed back, most recently due to the industry’s shortage of semiconductors.
While some analysts hailed the news as a critical step forward, others cautioned the plans outlined on Monday still leave Nissan struggling to catch up. General Motors upped spending on both electric and autonomous vehicles by 30%, to $27 billion, by 2025.
It plans to have at least 30 BEVs on sale by then. VW has now committed more than $110 billion, with 50 BEVs planned for its various brands by mid-decade. And Ford more than doubled its spending on electrified vehicles, to $30 billion, during the summer.
Ford plans to go 100% electric in Europe by 2030. Nissan, by comparison, expects electrified models to account for 75% of EU sales by then. The goal is 55% in Japan, and 40% in both the U.S. and China.
“It can be said that (the Nissan Ambition 2030 plan) represents a huge increase in investment, it feels cautious,” Masayuki Otani, senior analyst at Securities Japan Ltd, told the Reuters news service.
As of midday on Wall Street, Nissan shares dropped by 2.4%, to $10.49. The decline appears to represent not only caution about the Ambition 2030 plan but the impact shortages and the new Omicron COVID variant could have on the auto industry, according to analysts.