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Nissan's New EV: Almost Ready for Prime Time

Nissan is getting ready to launch its new electric vehicle (EV) next year, and it recently brought an early test version of the car (in the body of a Nissan Cube, though the actual car will have its own dedicated platform) on a 12-city tour that culminated this week in New York State's Bear Mountain State Park.

Mark Perry, a Nissan spokesman, said that EVs will be 10 percent of the company's volume by 2015. "This is a full-on rollout," he said, "not a test program." The car, announced last year, will have a 100-mile range, and the same ballpark manufacturer's suggested retail price as a family sedan like the Nissan Altima.

"Gasoline would have to go down to $1.10 a gallon for this not to work," said Perry, whose financial calculations were based on 14 cents per kilowatt-hour electricity and a $7,500 federal tax credit.

The 100-mile range is not an issue since most people drive 40 miles a day or less, Perry said. Fifteen-minute fast charging at big-box stores and fast-food restaurants will make it all feasible, he added, since the average stay in a fast-food restaurant is 20 minutes.

Katherine Zachary, also a Nissan spokesperson, said the new EV (which has special lithium-ion-manganese batteries, size of pack unannounced) will "not be production constrained." Before a mass-market launch in 2012, it will be available in 12 to 15 markets with Renault-Nissan Alliance charging networks. Announced so far are both cites, counties and states, including Seattle, Oregon, Sonoma County, the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, Phoenix and Tucson, the state of Tennessee, Raleigh and the District of Columbia (as well as Oak Ridge National Laboratory).

The car as tested had challenges--such as limited rear-seat legroom imposed by the battery pack--that the production vehicle won't have. But most who tried it found it both very quiet and very peppy, though it lagged a bit in the midrange. At Bear Mountain, drivers won points for squealing the tires.

Jim Motavalli photo --

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