Recent You Tube videos presented by Nissan highlight the technology of the all new Nissan Leaf EV.
In the first installment of videos, viewers are presented with battery technology information including a reference to the world's first li-ion powered EV the Nissan Altra. According to Nissan, this vehicle, engineered 17 years ago, was the first li-ion powered attempt at an EV.
So how much has the EV industry involved since the Nissan Altra? Is the Leaf a tremendous step forward? Let's take a look at the Nissan Altra.
The Nissan Altra was built off of the Nissan R'nessa multi amenity vehicle platform. The design was said to be versatile and spacious comfort on wheels. It was produced from 1997 to 2001 with the Altra EV as an export only.
The Altra was equipped with a 62 kW magnet neodymium electric motor and was powered by lithium-ion batteries manufactured by Sony.
The vehicle made its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show back in December of 1997. At the time, Nissan described the vehicle as a combination of a sedan, minivan, and SUV all rolled into one package. Only 200 Altra EVs were produced with the vast majority of them seeing fleet use for municipal and utility services.
The most significant achievement of the Astra was its application of li-ion batteries. Nissan termed it 3rd generation batteries after the lead acid and NiMh that preceded it. The li-ion battery was chosen for its power density, low weight, and recharge features.
The Altra came loaded with options such as keyless entry, 4 wheel anti-lock brakes, power everything, and regenerative braking.
Moving on to the specs the Astra was rated with a range of 120-140 miles between charges. The vehicle was capable of recharging in only 5 hours and could cycle up to 1,000 times. The battery was mounted beneath the floor in the ideal location for crash impact and weight distribution purposes. The EPA gave the 2000 Astra an adjusted mileage rating of 117 mpg city and 130 mpg highway.
Though the vehicle never saw widespread use, it was certainly ahead of its time. Flash forward to the Leaf and you will notice that its range is listed at 100 miles, with an expected 10 year battery life. Certainly the Leaf is more advanced. Its battery durability is much improved, the acceleration numbers are likely better, its adjusted gas mileage is expected to be much higher and it features countless amenities that the Astra was lacking.
However, from 1997 to 2011 one aspect of EVs has changed very little; RANGE. The Astra was capable of 120 to 140 miles per charge 12 years ago. Advances in technology may have led to the capability of additional range, but the Leaf displays no additional range from a comparably sized vehicle.
Potential EV buyers will have numerous concerns about purchasing an EV. Two major concerns are range and its associated anxiety, and battery life. Manufacturers must increase the range of EVs while assuring buyers that the vehicle will be reliable for years to come. This is essential for widespread EV success and must be addressed.
Previous EVs were not successful for many reasons and the consumer's demands have not changed over the years. They expect performance, comparable range to traditional vehicles, and a reliable vehicle that is built to last. Provide buyers with all three, and EVs are here to stay.