Nissan Plans Electric Crossover And Sports Car


Nissan senior vice president Shiro Nakamura, in an interview with AutoCar, says the company is hard at work on a new vehicle architecture suitable for both conventional and electric powertrains.  “We don’t want to limit our EVs just to the Leaf,” said. “We’re the leading EV manufacturer, but I don’t think we can make it just off one EV, so we want to grow the portfolio — that’s our next plan. It could be a crossover, it could be a sports car; we see much more opportunity for EVs than just a hatchback.”

Nissan plans electric SUV
Nissan ESFlow electric sports car concept from 2011. Photo Credit: Green Car Reports. 

Those simple words clearly illustrate why Tesla is poised to take over the car business. Every other manufacturer is hedging its bets by building cars that can be powered by any source — gasoline, diesel, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, battery, CNG, LNG, propane, fuel cell, or magic dust. Only Tesla is all in on electric cars. It is years ahead of the competition. By the time the others get where Tesla is today, its lead on the industry will have only increased.

Nakamura says Nissan is thinking about making an electric sports car. Really? What is the sports car share of the global market — 1%? 2%? Why divert precious resources to build a sports car when the need for a long range electric car is critical? Nissan will be limping along with a short range sedan for another 2 years. By the time the second generation LEAF arrives, the original car will be nearly 8 years old. That’s an eternity in the car business.

Nissan may also build an electric crossover — some day. Well, d’uh, Nakamura-san. The crossover is only the hottest segment of the car market. Why in the world don’t you have an electric crossover in showrooms right now? How difficult would it be to turn the LEAF into a 5 door hatchback? Why are Chevrolet and Tesla able to promise electric cars with at least 200 miles of range when Nissan is stuck with a wimpy 107 mile battery?

Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault/Nissan says he welcomes the competition from the Tesla Model 3. Really, Carlos? You have nothing in the pipeline that can touch the Model 3. For the same money, you are offering the public an ugly 8 year old car with no autonomous driving capability, an outdated interior, and embarrassingly little range for the same money. You think your car is competition for the Model 3? Oh, please.

Last week in Berlin, Daimler shareholders gave senior management an earful about why it has no answer for the Model 3. Nissan shareholders could ask the same question of Ghosn. All the top car executives in the world are beating their gums about how they will have cars to compete with Tesla in 5 years or so. And every time they make those claims, they admit just how much Tesla has caught them by surprise with their pants down around their ankles.

So Nissan, go ahead. Build your electric sports car for 2021 — if you are still in business by then.

Source: AutoCar.

About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.
  • Fred

    What makes you think Nissan has no answer to the model III in the pipeline?
    I think they probably do. But with EV’s still being a small part of their buisiness, and no need for upfront cash, Nissan is waiting for their product to be basically finished before they unveil it. By the time the III starts selling, they may well have a new LEAF on the road. And if they do, then … Great. I think, initialy, EVs will not actualy compete with eachother at all. There are so many people out there with so many tastes, likes and needs, that they will just choose what suits them best. Looks like overdemand might be a bigger problem then under demand.

    Bisides that I, of course, did what any sane person would do, and reserved my III…

    • Steve Hanley

      I appreciate your input, Fred. Perhaps you are right – Nissan just doesn’t blow its own horn quite as loudly or as often as Tesla does. What really sticks in my craw is all the companies designing new chassis that can be powered by any motor or engine or combination thereof.

      NO!!! You can’t compete with Tesla by making a compromise car. They are all in on electrics and if you want to compete with them, you have to be too. That’s my opinion, anyway, and worth exactly what you paid for it. ; – )

      I think the fact that you are now a proud Model 3 reservation holder speaks volumes about where the industry is headed.

      • Fred

        Totaly with you on the pure EV design. The Ioniq is a beautifull example. If you strat compromising in your design, you end up with a half-ass EV. Half ass EV’s don’t sell, period. But most importantly, half-ass EV’s don’t function!
        Nissan will have a clean sheet pure EV design with the new LEAF. As I said, they might not have to compete with Tesla, since they are making a different kind of, different looking cars. Some people might prefer a Model III over a LEAF, simply by the way it looks or feels. People who buy the III want a Tesla, not a Nissan, and vice versa…

        I am now an i3REX owner, but can’t wait for the III. The III is what I actualy wanted, but I needed a new car (poor 15-year old Audi A2 1.2Tdi with 165000miles was on it’s last legs). I coudn’t afford a Model S, and it was too big for me…

        Voila, goes to show…

      • nordlyst

        Given your occupation your level of apparent expertise on automotive engineering is surprising. I’d think you’d make much more money and accomplish much more to save the world if you used your clearly superior understanding of car design and manufacture to help Nissan make the Tesla-killing Hanley car.

        The economics for Tesla and other players are totally different. When Tesla designs their platform there’s obviously no point making it support any other driveline than electric, because they don’t make any other type of driveline. That’s not the case if you’re Nissan. Given their repeatedly stated goal of making electric cars that are as cheap to buy and run as possible, mainly targeting the Indian and Chinese market, are you really so sure that it’s nonsense to share platform with other vehicles?

        India for example recently made public the goal of a 100% electric car park by 2030. Madly ambitious, perhaps, but a huge opportunity for a company like Nissan. The scheme is to be self-financing in the following manner: You buy a car with zero down-payment, then pay it off with just the savings on fuel compared to buying a fossil car. That could be done, but only with a very inexpensive car.

        If you’re not aware, CO2 is a global problem. If Nissan sells a lot of electric cars to India and China over the next decade, and especially if those countries also green their energy mix over the same period, that translates to a much bigger benefit for you and me than if they sell a smaller number of sexier cars in Europe and the US.

        In any case, the proper address for anger is regulators, whose ambitions are far too low. BMW and Volvo introducing monsters with a tiny, tiny electric capability is ample demonstration that we aren’t pushing this. PHEVs can reduce fossil consumption by 90% very easily – it just takes 50 miles of all-electric range, with a sufficiently good driving experience that people actually use the car in all-electric mode. If we simply said cars are required to go at least 50 EPA miles in all-electric AND we put a carbon tax on fuel to motivate people to use electric mode the problem is largely solved.

        But you don’t have any angry words for policy. That could be divisive and isn’t good for the advertisers, so not good for your site. I respect that. Maybe you should respect that Nissan is trying to run a business, too.

    • marco


      I hate how the media blindly compares one EV to another. Example Model 3 or model S to a leaf or i3, it’s just dumb, and it shows that they make comments without any kind of research.

      Welcome to the model-3 club, by the way. 🙂

  • Kerry Carter

    I’m just so glad that we finally have products the whole world wants again after decades. Merica made! !!

  • nordlyst

    What an arrogant and stupid article. The author clearly thinks he’d be a much better CEO for Nissan than this silly Ghosn type who doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing.

    Well, Carlos turned around Nissan in less than two years when “everybody” thought the company was doomed. They became profitable again and have been doing well ever since.

    I don’t know if Nissan has a car as desireable as the Model 3 up their sleeve. I hope they do, of course. But I doubt it. Not because they are stupid or evil, but because they are a big company with a very different and much more risk-averse culture than Tesla, the disruptor-innovator driven forward by Mad Professor Musk – of whom I am a huge fan.

    Nissan has been quite clear about their strategic priorities for a while. And they are very much about emerging markets, particularly India and China. These are markets with very few cars compared to the number of people, and they are the biggest markets in the coming decades. What is really needed to do well there, and also as it happens to do good for the global environment, is very cheap and very efficient electric cars.

    Tesla also wants to make electric cars mainstream. Their approach is different but not necessarily possible for an incumbent. Both approaches are valuable.

    Nissan unlike all other established players has been clear for a long time: EVs are the best technology for more sustainable personal transportation. They are the only Japanese company not dabbling in the folly cells business. They’ve sold twice as many EVs, each of them considerably more efficient, than Tesla has. Of course nobody has yet sold enough EVs to make a real impact on the overall harm transportation does the environment, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Nissan took that step and gave us the LEAF. I agree that their product is no longer very attractive, but I think it’s ridiculous to be *angry* at Nissan for attempting to do what is profitable. Unlike all other incumbents the company speaks the truth about the tech and does nothing to retard government in encouraging EVs.

    I think Nissan may be considering a sports car exactly because of the image problem it’s developing in the US where many people are angry because Nissan isn’t Tesla and has its own priorities. Or maybe they see that the sports car could share platform with LEAF II but sell at considerably higher margins. I don’t know what their thinking is, but I’m certain it’s business reasons. You know, just like all companies in the world. What Nissan hasn’t been doing is lie about what EVs can or can’t do.

    Write some angry stuff about BMW why don’t you. Or Porsche. Or Audi. Or Ford. Or nearly anyone else. It’d be a bit silly, since they’re just trying to do business much like your own employer. But it’d make a lot more sense than attacking Nissan.

    • Daniel Zamir

      Very much agree.
      Carlos Ghosn was pushing for EV’s years before it was popular. They did make a few design errors with the Leaf (lack of active cooling, short range), but they seem to be the most driven in the traditional industry. Going forward it matters more if you are willing to learn from mistakes and put money where your mouth is than any current lead any company might have.

      • super390

        The Bolt looks a lot more driven than the Leaf. GM is the epitome of the traditional industry.
        The real problem is that both companies see EVs as niches, and they want to take their time finding out which niches. We are not seeing a commitment to making EVs at the same price as comparable gas cars, or a commitment to making EVs in the hundreds of thousands per year instead of tens of thousands. Those two commitments are joined at the hip by the need for economies of scale.

    • Steve Hanley

      i plead guilty to having a First World POV with regard to this particular issue. The article is meant to compare Nissan’s efforts to those of Tesla and the Model 3. With all due respect to your wounded feelings, an electric sports car or CUV has NOTHING whatever to do with basic mobility needs in China or India. I think you were a little too quick to slap me around and really didn’t read the story.

      The story was quite clearly about what Nissan has in mind to counter Tesla. If you want to enlighten us about how an electric sports car will benefit those who lead a subsistence lifestyle in India, go right ahead and try.

  • AaronD12

    “How difficult would it be to turn the LEAF into a 5 door hatchback?” Um, it’s not? I think you meant to say “…into a 5-door crossover?”, and the answer is “not that difficult”.

    Nissan has hinted repeatedly about their next-gen LEAF with a 60kWh battery. They better get it out sooner than later, and with Nissan’s manufacturing capabilities, I think they can. GM will have the bargain 200-mile EV stage for a while, but not forever.

    • Steve Hanley

      Ummm…perhaps I did mean CUV. Thanks for picking up on that.

  • James

    Awesome Steve ! Exactly right.
    Ghosn had the opportunity to build on the original momentum of the Leaf and he blew it. Yes, the biggest opportunity in the crossover. – GM, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Ford, Mitsubishi, Hyundai – crickets. Tesla – the model Y?

    It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few months. If the others really have something “in the pipeline”, they will have to start talking about it in attempts to blunt Model 3 reservations. Otherwise Tesla just took 325,000 customers and counting off their tables.

    • Daniel Zamir

      “Blew it”. Odd choice of words considering EV’s are less than 1% of the market. This is far from over.

  • Daniel Zamir

    Enough with the fanboi-ism and obsession with Tesla!
    Nissan has enough cash to pull this off, while Tesla needs to borrow money.
    This does not mean Tesla is inferior, but you can’t write off Nissan so easily. If they see it as a priority (and it seems they now do), you can have a great line of EV’s.
    And a sports car makes perfect sense within this context. They want to get both brand recognition, but also to get their own engineers focused on performance in EV’s.

  • Peter Voight

    “Why are Chevrolet and Tesla able to promise electric cars with at least
    200 miles of range when Nissan is stuck with a wimpy 107 mile battery?”

    Aren’t Chevrolet one of those manufacturers “hedging its bets by building cars that can be powered by any source”? Perhaps it’s because the car with the implausibly “wimpy battery” has outsold Tesla 2:1?
    The ICE’s range is far in excess of the typical vehicle’s journey, so there really is no need of 200 mile range, nor charging stations when most cars are parked for 20hours/day. Tesla pander to those who don’t like change.

    • Steve Hanley

      I find the last sentence of your comment extraordinary.

      • Peter Voight

        The Model S allows luxury car drivers the security provided by the continuation of former habits, including ‘insane’ modes to impress those in the corporate parking lot.
        Gasoline cars readily supply more range is generally needed, while gas stations allow for easy replenishment. Similarily, the Model S offers more range than necessary, while charging stations replace the equivalent gas station. Both the Model S and Model 3 are like gasoline cars in appearance, including the extended hood normally occupied by an ICE. Not change, but maintanance of the what was provided by the gasoline car, by dint of historical circumstance.
        Nissan don’t need to address that one market, so can use a small battery which can be charged as the owner sleeps. They sell to those who see the advantages of the new.

        • Rick Danger

          Did you receive a hard blow to the head recently?

          • super390

            Some environmentalists want everybody to change their values immediately, even by coercion or catastrophe. Unfortunately, by only serving the few who have different values, you accomplish little. There will be a catastrophe one day, but we don’t know when, and a responsible agent for change has to get the best he can while actually winning the consumers and voters we currently have.

            To put this in perspective, there are Greens who would damn Mr. Voight to Hell for not banning all cars and forcing everyone to live with mass transit. There are even those who damn them in turn for supporting mass transit instead of forcing everyone to use bicycles or walk, and those who damn them for not abandoning the cities and growing their own food.

          • Steve Hanley

            ; – )

          • Peter Voight

            Perhaps your understanding of batteries is wanting, and how batteries relate to the way Telsa market cars.
            Tesla employ a large array of small cells, which is a dated approach not employed by any other EV manufacturer.

            Nissan, Samsung, and LG have all developed newer, safer,
            and more sophisticated cells, that Tesla are denied, because that have no choice other than to use NCA high density cells.

            Tesla’s cell will not tolerate frequent deep discharge, but large capacity avoids that problem, because the same capacity as the smaller battery, represents only a partial discharge of the larger battery. Small batteries must also be fully charged, because each kWh counts. The larger battery can avoid both the deep discharge and fully charged states, that the smaller battery must endure to be practical. The problem for the large battery is charging time, so demanding high power charging stations, while the smaller battery can be charged from a domestic socket. Telsa’s low discharge-rate batteries will not be suitable as re-purposed storage batteries. Telsa’s cars are the least efficient on the road, marked by the eleborate battery cooling, which the more sophisticated Leaf battery does not need. Musk described air cooled batteries as ‘primitive’ because Tesla do not have them. Naturally convected cells that do not contain cobalt, are durable, deep discharge, more efficient, nor subject to fires, took NEC-Tokin almost 10 years to develop.

            Tesla’s ‘contribution’ to the EV market to peddle large batteries, because they don’t have the alternative that could produce a direct rival to the Leaf or other similar vehicles, which could bring about the change, and environmental benefits, they talk about but can’t offer. If their claimed cell prices were plausible, and applied then wouldn’t they have a significant cost advantage? But, no, the car’s price is more than the $35K.

            Like the Model S, the Model 3, is not ground up, but top down, where the appeal is to ‘cool’ cars, packed with gimmicks, aimed at adolescent men.

  • josetony

    What Nissan need in order to compete with Tesla is make a car that can hold twice the batteries that the Leaf is carrying right now which is 30 KW. For that you might need a larger platform. Maybe an Altima platform will do to save money . And they need to redesign this ugly Leaf as soon as possible. And dont forget to price it at $35,000.

    • Peter Voight

      No, they have sold 220,000 cars as they are. That means there are more buyers who are less self-concious about a vehicle’s appearance, than the Lemmings who stood in line to pay and wait. Average pre-order price according to Musk, stands at $42,000.

    • Steve Hanley

      I happen to agree with you on all points, although others do not. I am more than a little surprised at the venom directed at Tesla. If it is not a change agent, I don’t know who is. What they have done is extraordinary. They have made EVs cars that people actually want, rather than cars that tree huggers and eco freaks fell they have to drive.

      They are, as Elon says, compelling cars. Tesla has changed the whole electric car conversation. How that can be a bad thing, I cannot fathom.

  • marco

    Uuuugh!? Does anyone else think the Nissan ESFlow is hideous!