Nissan Carefully Approaching Launch of Mobility Concept in Suburban Japan

Posted by Stephen On Friday, April 5th, 2013

March was a great month for Nissan. The Nissan Altima sedan outsold the Toyota Camry for the first time in a year and a half, and sales across the board are up 1% since this time last year. The Nissan LEAF had a record-breaking 2,200+ sales, a massive increase over the EV’s second best month of 1,700 units back in early 2011. Nissan is also making plans to bring the LEAF to China to offer their affordable EV to yet another exploding market.

But, I don’t want to talk about any of that today. Instead, I’m going to take advantage of this between-auto-show lull and talk about a concept I’ve been aching to cover for a couple months now – the Nissan Mobility Concept.

What is the Nissan Mobility Concept?

The Nissan Mobility Concept is a four-wheel, pure electric vehicle capable of seating 1.5 people in tandem configuration. The NMC can reach speeds of 50 mph, and has a 62 mile driving range. It’s wheelbase is a mere 4 feet wide and a little under 8 feet long. The lithium ion battery can be fully charged from a regular socket in just 4 hours.

Well-read automotive enthusiasts will recognize the Nissan Mobility Concept as a very similar vehicle to the Renault Twizy, which was the best-selling EV in Europe during 2012. Currently, the biggest difference between the two EVs is the tires… The NMC even uses the same lithium ion battery as the Twizy.

So, what’s the point? Why is Nissan re-badging Renault’s Twizy?

What is Nissan’s Goal for the NMC?

Firstly, the Nissan Mobility Concept is launching in Japan, a completely different market from Renault’s Twizy. Plus, by the time the car finally launches in 2015 (estimated), we’re sure Nissan will have integrated a few other new features. At least, we hope.

Secondly, the NMC isn’t actually about the vehicle – it’s about the idea of economical and environmentally-friendly suburban transportation. Nissan has already partnered with Tokyu Corp. and Yokohama Mobility Project Zero, and their goal is to create a vehicle that integrates seamlessly with public transportation in what’s been dubbed ‘two-mode EV car sharing’, while also providing the ideal vehicle for small, local errands. It’s sort of like the Toyota i-Road in that regard, but about 2 years ahead of schedule.

In the US, this would be classified as a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle, which is actually illegal in some cities. In Europe, the Twizy is classified as a heavy quadricycle, and the slower model can be driven without a license. In Japan, the NMC would currently be classified as a kei car, but Nissan is looking to classify it as something new.

So, what’s holding the NMC back from official launch in Japan? People. A representative from the Ministy of Transport made it clear that Nissan needs to teach people how to drive these small electric cars safely.

Unfortunately, there is no mention of the NMC ever coming to the US. It seems we will be limited to the LEAF for several years yet, mostly because the regulations for these small electric vehicles are too rigid in too many states. But a guy can dream, can’t he? It looks like the NMC will be a hit when it finally does launch in Japan, just the Twizy has been in Europe.

Sources: Autoblog Green, The Truth About Cars, Wikipedia

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