Just flick the switch

Bet­ter bat­ter­ies are giv­ing Nis­san the edge in elec­tric cars, writes NEIL McDON­ALD THE BAT­TER­IES HAVE SU­PE­RIOR RE­LI­A­BIL­ITY, SAFETY, VER­SA­TIL­ITY AND COST COM­PET­I­TIVE­NESS COM­PARED WITH CON­VEN­TIONAL NICKEL METAL HY­DRIDE BAT­TER­IES DRIV­ING

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

CUT­TING-EDGE lithi­u­mion bat­ter­ies are at the heart of two Nis­sans due on sale glob­ally by 2012. The new bat­ter­ies are lighter and more pow­er­ful and have a bet­ter range than con­ven­tional nickel metal hy­dride bat­ter­ies such as those used in the Toy­ota Prius. Nis­san is well ad­vanced with de­vel­op­ment, show­ing off al­l­elec­tric and hy­brid-elec­tric pro­to­types in Ja­pan last week that use the bat­ter­ies. It plans to in­tro­duce the al­l­elec­tric car in Ja­pan by 2010, fol­lowed by the rest of the world. The pro­to­type EV car, based on a Cube hatch called the EV-02, is ex­pected to be sold in Aus­tralia. The pro­duc­tion car is said to closely re­sem­ble the two-door Mixim coupe but will be made more fam­ily friendly, with a big­ger load area and more rear room. In pro­to­type form, the Cube EV02 has a range of 160km, but once the pro­duc­tion car hits the road Nis­san be­lieves it will be able travel 250km be­fore recharg­ing and have a top of 180km/h. Even with a range of 160km, the EV-02 can com­plete an av­er­age com­mute with dis­tance left in re­serve. The car can be charged from a con­ven­tional power point overnight. Nis­san also plans a fast-charg­ing sys­tem that will boost power to 80 per cent in 10-20 min­utes. It plans to talk to gov­ern­ments and elec­tric­ity com­pa­nies about the recharg­ing in­fra­struc­ture needed. The EV pro­to­type is part of Nis­san’s re­search and de­vel­op­ment pro­gram on zero-emis­sion ve­hi­cles. This latest- gen­er­a­tion fron­twheel-drive pro­to­type uses a newly de­vel­oped 80kW mo­tor and in­verter. Nis­san, in con­junc­tion with NEC, has pro­duced com­pact flat, or lam­i­nate, bat­ter­ies, rather than the con­ven­tional, cylin­dri­cal cells of other elec­tric ve­hi­cles. The ad­vanced lam­i­nated lithi­u­mion bat­ter­ies are in­stalled un­der the floor, with­out sac­ri­fic­ing ei­ther cabin or cargo space. Like the EV, the petrol-elec­tric hy­brid sedan in­tro­duces break­through tech­nolo­gies that will be shared with Re­nault, which is owned by Nis­san. The petrol hy­brid is based on the rear-drive In­finiti G35 V6. The car uses a Nis­san-de­vel­oped high-per­for­mance rear-wheel-drive hy­brid sys­tem and par­al­lelpow­er­train hy­brid sys­tem. The par­al­lel-pow­er­train sys­tem com­prises an en­ergy-sav­ing sys­tem with two clutches, mean­ing one mo­tor is di­rectly con­nected to the V6 and auto trans­mis­sion via sep­a­rate clutches. The mo­tor switches be­tween the two to op­ti­mise and con­serve en­ergy and im­prove fuel ef­fi­ciency. The par­al­lel-pow­er­train hy­brid sys­tem elim­i­nates the need for con­ven­tional torque con­vert­ers, con­tribut­ing to higher re­spon­sive­ness and ac­cel­er­a­tion, for im­proved driv­ing feel. The bat­ter­ies used in both pro­to­types are sourced from a joint ven­ture op­er­a­tion be­tween Nis­san and NEC, called the Au­to­mo­tive En­ergy Sup­ply Cor­po­ra­tion. The bat­ter­ies have su­pe­rior per­for­mance, re­li­a­bil­ity, safety, ver­sa­til­ity and cost com­pet­i­tive­ness com­pared with con­ven­tional nickel metal hy­dride bat­ter­ies, Nis­san spokesman Haruyoshi Ku­mura says. ‘‘Its com­pact, flat lam­i­nated con­fig­u­ra­tion has twice the elec­tric power com­pared with con­ven­tional nickel metal hy­dride bat­ter­ies with a cylin­dri­cal con­fig­u­ra­tion,’’ he says. The com­pact bat­ter­ies also al­low for im­proved ve­hi­cle pack­ag­ing. ‘‘It is far more space ef­fi­cient and com­pact,’’ Ku­mura says. He says re­cy­cling the EV-02 and the hy­brid are paramount. ‘‘Nis­san is look­ing at the whole con­cept of elec­tric-ve­hi­cle re­cy­cling of the car, not only the bat­ter­ies.’’ Nis­san elec­tric cars are not new. It built the Tama elec­tric car in 1947, driven by post-World War II fuel short­ages. In to­day’s world, the big ques­tion with the EV is price. It is ex­pected to cost more than a con­ven­tional small four-cylin­der hatch and the petrol elec­tric hy­brid will be more ex­pen­sive than a mid­size petrol Nis­san.

IN PRAC­TICE, the Cube EV is just like a con­ven­tional car, ex­cept for the pro­to­type’s funky black-and-white paint scheme. Like a con­ven­tional small four­cylin­der ve­hi­cle, the start-up pro­ce­dure is sim­i­lar. But in the case of the EV, the driver just turns a key un­til a green ‘‘ready’’ light comes on. Drive is then se­lected and the Cube EV pow­ers away in si­lence. There is min­i­mum noise from the elec­tric mo­tor, and the torque is in­stan­ta­neous from stand­still. The pro­to­type had no trou­ble quickly hit­ting 100km/h on the tight Nis­san test track near Yoko­hama and ac­cel­er­a­tion was im­pres­sive. Equally im­pres­sive is the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of the driv­e­train and the ‘‘nor­mal’’ be­hav­iour of the car, even though it is a pro­to­type. The han­dling is as good as a con­ven­tional hatch. Only the pro­to­type’s bat­tery pack­ag­ing un­der the front seats and rear floor in­trude into the cabin. Ku­mura says that by the time the pro­duc­tion ver­sion rolls out of the fac­tory, it will have good pack­ag­ing and plenty of room for pas­sen­gers and lug­gage.

Pull out the plug and go: Nis­san’s new pro­to­type elec­tric car is based on a Cube hatch and is called the EV-02.

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