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Renault-Nissan Alliance is EVerywhere - Interview with Nissan Europe ZE Business Unit

16 July 2012

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Renault-Nissan are the first OEMs to have launched a wide range of EVs on the car market. During an event organised by the Alliance, took the opportunity to get some insights on the experiences of LEAF drivers. Below you can find a summary of the interview with Olivier Paturet, ZE Business Unit General Manager, Nissan Europe.

“The question is not if it is going to happen, but when it is going to happen” said Richard Bruce, Department of Transport UK, Head of Office for Low Emissions Vehicles. Everybody who attended the Renault-Nissan Alliance event in Brussels end of June agreed with this quote, stating that by 2050, all cars will be electric, as EV cost will fall and public infrastructure will be largely deployed.

However, to reach this target, many challenges are still ahead, and the best way to understand them is to talk to EV pioneers such as Nissan: After more than 30,000 LEAF sold worldwide, what is the most common feedback you have received from Leaf owners?

Olivier Paturet: First of all, one thing to consider is that European Leaf owners represent a very active group. They talk a lot on blogs, forums and the first lesson is that there is no range anxiety for them. The range anxiety sort of disappears after the first days of using the vehicle.

Then, they ask questions on charging points. One of the things that they like is quick charging. And we received a lot of feedback about their very high level of satisfaction with the LEAF. If there is no range anxiety? Why do they like quick charging so much?

Olivier Paturet: The range anxiety is perceived as the limitation of travel capacity. LEAF drivers usually start to organise their lives around home charging and as they become more familiar with driving the LEAF, they would like to extend and take their journey a little bit further. As they are communicating with other owners, they sometimes also want to meet with them. So they meet on the way, they share charging points, but the overall view is that if they had quick charging they could travel more freely. What do you see being the greatest incentive so far for customers? (free use of bus lanes, free parking, tax rebate, etc)

Olivier Paturet: Taking the example of Norway, I would say a combination of all of them is critical, but it highly depends on the situation of the country. In the case of Norway, the bus lane was a very strong incentive but it came with free parking, free electricity, so again I want to be very careful: there is no magic answer but there is a combination of things, as today you need to have the necessary consumer incentive to buy the vehicle upfront. For Renault, we see that the Kangoo ZE, Fluence ZE and Twizy have not been designed for the mass market, which will not be the case for the ZOE. What will be the next EV mass market for Nissan?

Olivier Paturet: Two of them: we announced the van (eNV-200) which will be produced in Barcelona and is a big move for us next year, and the Infiniti version of our electric line-up, which is also big news. We will then have a combination of passenger car, luxury car and a delivery van which has a taxi version. This will open up a wide range of applications for us in Europe. Many OEMs such as GM, Fiat seem to have difficulties to make EV a business case. Is Nissan different? How has this been achieved?

Olivier Paturet: One of the key components is being global: Nissan started on a global scale with Tokyo, California and now the North-West corridor of Europe. All these cities and regions are very active in terms of electric vehicle deployment so this global footprint allows us to gain huge capacities in terms of deploying the technology around the world. This clearly gives us a competitive advantage. Will Nissan have the same EV business model as Renault in the future? (leasing batteries/maintenance)

Olivier Paturet: Today we are continuing to learn. Renault is investigating battery leasing and also battery swapping. We will learn from their experience. Our view is also that full leasing (vehicle + battery) has a lot of potential so we will work to develop this business model, for both private users and fleets. Nissan's CEO Carlos Ghosn has re-confirmed that the Renault-Nissan alliance will have sold 1.5 million electric cars worldwide by 2016. Can it be accomplished with only Kangoo/Twizy/Fluence/ZOE and Leaf?

Olivier Paturet: Before running we start walking. The start in Europe has been great. Our view today is that we are looking for more partnerships and more consensus to reach the level that is required in terms of sales.

It was critical to be at the European Sustainable Energy Week in gathering momentum and making cities, regions and countries share their experience and make sure that everybody is embarking into this initiative which we think starts with the idea that electric vehicles make a lot of sense on the cost side when you calculate the total cost of ownership (TCO)..

There is also the need to understand that EVs contribute to improving air quality and therefore contribute to issues that cities are facing in Europe. If we are able to work in cooperation with the cities towards the improvement of air quality by using EV as the medium then the success of EV is set.

All Renault ZE attended the inauguration of charging points at DG Transport & DG Energy

Two charging stations have been installed in front of DG Transport and DG Energy buildings. They were inaugurated by the Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas, and the Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger. The charging stations will be operated as a demo region of the Green eMotion project, a largescale electromobility demonstration project running across Europe until 2015.

“They (electric cars) will help cities to reduce local pollution and the EU's overall greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, electrifying road transport could radically change the way mobility is organised in Europe, particularly in urban areas,” said Commissioner for Transport Siim Kallas, speaking at the inauguration event.

Renault was present at the event with its full range of ZE electric cars.


Roger Atkins

Ricardo UK Ltd
The Renault-Nissan Alliance EV ambition is of course audacious. The challenges around infrastructure and product synergy, battery R&D, and consumer acceptance are well documented. Pioneering more often paves the way more for observers than participants, but the prospect of a 'surprise tipping-point' for EV could well put the Alliance in an enviable market position. As sustainable energy provision is the key driver for many countries, energy storage - V2G etc could well become a necessity rather than happenstance. Having had first-hand experience with an EV business myself, I recognise the areas that Olivier outlines, and it strikes me that they are capturing all the important aspects and learning many invaluable lessons. Good luck to them I say!
added 2012-07-17 11:59:20

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