Last week we saw a flurry of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles make their official debuts, led by the Toyota Mirai. Audi, Volkswagen, and Honda also brought concepts to the show floor, and other automakers have demonstrated interest in their own fuel cell vehicles. But for Nissan, the future is still all about electric cars.
In an interview with the Japan Times, Nissan’s Vice Chairman Toshiyuki Shiga said that governments and automakers should “promote the electric vehicle first rather than hydrogen.” Asked if Nissan has any plans for a hydrogen car of its own, Shiga indicated such a vehicle might come about “in the long-term future.”
Shiga claims to be optimistic about the future of electric vehicles, and he has good reason to be. Europe has proven especially hungry for electric vehicles, which benefit from a multitude of tax breaks, cash incentives, and driving perks. But it also wasn’t that long ago that a Nissan executive was apologizing for slow EV sales and reminding people that the automaker was taking a $1 billion longshot on a technology with a discouraging track record.
In the past year though, the Nissan LEAF has become a hit in several countries, and sales seem to be growing despite an overall downward trend in sales of hybrids. The price cut helped out, but so do generous incentives like “No Charge to Charge” tax rebates that can amount to $10,000 or more. Hydrogen remains a long shot for widespread market acceptance anytime soon, but for what it’s worth I think Shiga is right. Hybrids like the Prius were a stepping stone to plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars.
If hydrogen cars are indeed a superior alternative, they will have their chance to prove it…but the costs are still too high and the infrastructure still too little for hydrogen to have any impact on the near-term. We need a solution today, and with an all-new Nissan LEAF just around the corner, electric cars are a solution a lot of Americans can get into today.