Dongfeng Nissan to launch electric cars by 2012

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The Renault-Nissan alliance is pushing forward its giant project of electric vehicles and the Nissan electric car is expected to be launched in 2010. Nissan’s Chinese venture Dongfeng Nissan will also put its electric car on sale in China in 2012, said today.

Earlier this year Nissan's joint venture with electronics maker NEC Corp announced the plan to invest 12 billion yen ($115 million) to start mass-producing lithium-ion batteries, a technology widely viewed as vital to electric, hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles. The push into advanced lithium-ion batteries comes as Japanese automakers invest in an array of new eco-friendly car technologies amid soaring prices at the pump.

Nissan has been slower than rivals Toyota Motor and Honda Motor to embrace petrol-electric hybrids, but it aims to become the industry leader in electric vehicles. "Nissan firmly believes that the ultimate solution for sustainable mobility lies in zero emission and the hybrid is only a transitional technology," said an executive president of Nissan.

"Electric vehicles will be a key product breakthrough that our industry can deliver," he told reporters, adding that Nissan was ready to supply the batteries to its joint ventures worldwide, including Dongfeng Nissan, and to any other companies interested in the technology.

The dream of an electric car, which has been around since the time of Thomas Edison, has so far failed to break into the mainstream because of limited battery life that makes such vehicles impractical for most purposes. Lithium-ion batteries are smaller and lighter than the nickel-metal hydride batteries now used in hybrid and electric cars.

Last month, Dongfeng Nissan had its 1 millionth car -- its latest X-Trail SUV -- rolling of line. The venture's current eight models include the sedan, SUV, MPV and Cross-over, with annual sales of over 300,000 units. The company aims to sell 500,000 vehicles annually by 2012. More than seven new models will be introduced by Dongfeng Nissan for this goal.

By George Gao

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