Posts Tagged ‘EV’

Japanese Auto Art: Toyota’s Wooden Roadster

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

Of the world’s top 10 largest automobile manufacturing names, Japan currently has six on the list, but only one of those companies has built a fully functional wooden car. Yes, you read that correctly. In an age when chopping down innocent woodland has fallen somewhat out of favor, some bright spark has decided it would be a great time to make a car out of dead trees. Not exactly what springs to mind when you think of “green motoring”.

Toyota Setsuna wooden concept car

Anyway, this particular wooden roadster showcases the beauty of okuri ari — a Japanese housed dovetail technique that requires no nails or screws. Toyota is unveiling this stunning car at Milan Design Week in Italy (April 12 – April 17, 2016). Filled with events, presentations, and exhibitions, the prestigious extravaganza is renowned for revealing forthcoming trends in the world of design. Except, perhaps, the likelihood of wood being the next carbon fiber still seems rather low to this writer.

A modest two-seat roadster, the Setsuna is a concept car that Toyota is tagging as a ‘Time Machine,’ though not for its ability to leap backward or forwards across the space-time continuum. In fact, the underlying focus of the entire campaign Toyota is touting centers around moving away from technology and being more cognizant of how significant and fleeting time is in the real world. Toyota engineer Kenji Tsuji, together with Kota Nezu of znug design, wanted the primary structural element of their design to illustrate aging and the passing of time. Wood, while unconventional, was precisely the material needed to embody their message.

Presumably, the point being that wood ages and decays. Of course, the same sense of the passage of time can also be seen on Japanese family cars from the eighties, as they rust and corrode. But that was a design flaw. This, however, is art.

Setsuna: Time and Timeless

The name Setsuna means “moment” or “instance” in Japanese. With this design, Toyota is appealing to the kind of old-school attachment car owners had with their vehicles over half a century ago.

They are seeking the kind of bond fanatical auto enthusiasts, and club members have for their hot rods. The minds inside Toyota want to tap into that feeling of owning an heirloom, and passing it down through multiple generations. The following are a few examples of just how passionate everyone involved in the project is about how and why the Setsuna is destined to be timeless.

The 100-Year Meter and the Setsuna Emblem

Setting a tone that denotes the “accumulation of moments” in a gradual and consistent manner, these two elements are beautiful examples of form over function. Their purpose is served by the sense they strive to evoke — the feeling of family roots.

The vintage-style meter of brushed aluminum is set in the stunning wood grain dashboard just to the right of the wipe-lacquered wood steering wheel. Two red hands tick off the time of day and the passing of days while a counter at the bottom logs the years as they go by. Perfect for anyone stuck in a Tokyo traffic jam, then.

The car’s emblem, which at first glance looks like a rotary saw blade, is actually a combination of much milder metaphors. The circular pattern is modeled after the rings inside a tree, which represent strength; they also signify a moment unfolding like a flower.

Although, if your eyes are not, in fact, deceiving you and it really is supposed to look like a saw blade, well how appropriate for a car made of wood. The fleeting nature of life as embodied in a wooden car meets its inescapable rendezvous with the circular saw of time, perhaps?

Which wood to choose?

To ensure that the Setsuna lasts as long as its lavish meter, the type of wood used was carefully selected based on where it would be in the car.

Exterior panels: Japanese cedar, known for its flexibility and vivid color along with a wood grain of refined character was a natural choice. Straight-grain panels achieve a sharp and even pattern because the cut is made toward the log’s center. Cross-grain panels have a softer appearance with a more irregular pattern which Toyota lauds as fostering a “quaint and friendly impression.”

Car frame: Supporting the weight of the vehicle and its occupants required an extremely rigid and sturdy variety of wood. The perfect selection was Japanese birch, which is similar to paper birch trees with the signature chalky white bark.

Floorboard: A species of flowering plant commonly used in the art of bonsai or as an ornamental tree, the Japanese Zelkova was chosen for its strength and durability.

Seats: Part of the ginseng family, the Castor Aralia is valued for its timber quality. Growing to nearly 100 feet tall with a 40-inch trunk diameter, this particular species was picked for the smooth texture of the wood. Designers sought to offer a feeling akin to sitting on a wooden park bench — in this case, a leather-covered bench.

Of course, as any environmentalist knows, if you want a material that lasts for centuries without decaying, you need look no further than the almost immortal plastic used to make grocery bags.

Put Together Like a Puzzle

The body of the Setsuna is built using 86 wood panels that have been fitted together in a way that enables single panels to be removed and replaced as necessary. Traditional Japanese techniques that use the interlocking methods of housed dovetail joints add to the overall strength and durability of their auto’s wooden body.

With this being a one-off, I assume that crash safety was not uppermost in the designers’ minds. While Japanese wood-framed houses rarely have to endure impacts, it’s not clear what protection the Setsuna would afford its occupants. Having dropped a few jigsaw puzzles on the floor in my time, I suspect it would be very little. And at speeds above walking pace, getting a splinter would be the least of your problems.

Toyota is sure to receive myriad accolades in Milan because their concept car — conceived by clever minds daring to push the boundaries of design — makes a beautiful statement both visually and conceptually. With a single electric motor as its only power source, the prototype can achieve a top speed of 28 mph and travel approximately 16 miles before needing to recharge.

To state the obvious, Toyota has no production plans for the wooden Setsuna. But this is not a bad thing. It’s a hugely flawed design boondoggle that sneers in the face of environmentalism – cutting down trees instead of hugging them.


2015 Nissan’s Bumper Year In Europe

Posted by Stephen On Friday, January 29th, 2016

Nissan enjoyed its best-selling year in Europe for the brand in 2015. They had three big reveals while they continue to pump out vehicles from the Barcelona and Sunderland plants. All the marketing they’ve done in 2015 paid off. Nissan sold 715,623 vehicles last year. This number was bolstered in December with sales for that month reaching 61,823.

Nissan Leaf

If we were to look at the market share for Nissan in Europe, they only command 4 percent. Combined with their low cost, sub-premium brand Datsun, they might hold a little over 4.2 percent. Even with the numbers as low as that, they are the best-selling Japanese brand on the continent – beating out Toyota, Suzuki and every other major Japanese automaking brand.

Significant sales spikes happened in 2015. The Nissan Pulsar sold 50 percent more vehicles in 2015 that they did in 2014. The Nissan X-Trail, a vehicle similar to the Nissan Rogue, the Nissan Juke and the Nissan Qashqai also had significant increases in 2015 over reported numbers from the previous year.

The Nissan LEAF

Even the Nissan LEAF sold more than anything else. The vehicle continues to be the leading vehicle in the EV segment. They sold more than 15,000 vehicles. Nissan expects these numbers to continue to rise in 2016. The 2016 LEAF has a 30kWh capability, giving it an extended range that makes it a much more viable proposition for commuters.

For all the vehicles that Nissan sold in 2015, over 400,000 vehicles came from their Sunderland UK plant alone. That makes this particular manufacturing plant the most productive plant in the whole of the United Kingdom.

As Nissan is enjoying these numbers, they know that their work is far from complete.

Every year, their market share increases. Nissan announced that they had their best year ever when they were reporting the 2014 numbers close to a year ago. Of course, in 2014, they had 12 launches in 12 months. Put in perspective, their market share is no surprise.

What’s interesting to note is that Nissan sold 15,000 LEAFs in 2014 and that number didn’t actually rise in 2015. Either way, the Nissan LEAF is the most popular electric vehicle in the whole of Europe.

Nissan has big plans for 2016. At this point, only time will tell if this year will be better than the last. At the very least, Nissan has high hopes.


2016 Nissan LEAF To Get Triple-Digit EV Range

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, June 6th, 2015

2015 Nissan LEAF

Nissan has a problem. The next generation of their all-star EV, the Nissan leaf, isn’t due out until the middle of 2017 at the earliest. But, many of the car’s competitors are starting to rise in popularity, due in large part to their new model offerings.

For example, BMW’s new i3 (which can be had as a PHEV or EV) doubled its sales in May. The car’s biggest competitor, the Chevrolet Volt, just had its best month of sales ever in May with 1,618 deliveries, less than a thousand short of the Leaf’s May sales… And Chevy’s bringing their next-generation Volt out at the end of this year, not next.

If something doesn’t change soon, there’s a very good chance that the Volt will outsell the Leaf for the first time ever before the end of 2015. Unacceptable!

So, what’s Nissan going to do?

According to a recent report from InsideEVs, Nissan plans to offer an upgraded battery on the two higher trims of the Leaf for the 2016 model year. The SV and SL trims will both come with a 30 kWh battery, while the baseline S trim will retain the 24 kWh unit that’s used in all Nissan’s EVs now.

A 30 kWh battery would represent a 25% increase in the Leaf’s power storage capacity, which would allow the EV to finally hit triple-digit range numbers… According to the anonymous dealerships cited by InsideEVs, Nissan estimates the new Leaf will get a range between 105 and 110 miles per charge. Of course, Nissan’s official spokesman, Brian Brockman, is adamant that these are not to be taken as official specs. He told Autoblog, “We have made no public announcement about the 2016 Nissan LEAF. We do not comment on future product details.”

Also, keep in mind that this new expanded battery is still only a shadow of the potential that Nissan has hinted at for the next-gen model due out in mid-2017. Current rumors state that the next-gen Leaf will have a range beyond 200 miles, which would put it unquestionably ahead of even the Tesla Model 3, much less the 50-mile range of the next-gen Chevy Volt.

Japanese Car Auction Find – 2014 Nissan Leaf

2014 Nissan LEAF

Since it’s going to still be at least a couple more years until the next-generation Nissan Leaf hits the market, now is the perfect time to pick up an affordable first-gen Leaf from the auctions in Japan.

2014 Nissan LEAF rear

What we have here is a 2014 model year in a Deep Blue Pearl, which we expect to be added to the lineup as a standard color option for the 2016 model year.

2014 Nissan LEAF interior

Other than that, you probably already know if this car is for you. It’s a standard 2014 Nissan Leaf in spectacular shape with less than 7,000 kilometers on the odometer. A 5 auction rating, A-grade interior and exterior, barely a scratch or blemish across the entire car. Learn more via the auction sheet translation below:

2014 Nissan LEAF auction sheet

Interior A, exterior A, first registered April 2014, X 80th Special Color Limited model, FAT, AAC, power steering, power windows, ABS, airbag, original navigation system and TV, wheels scratched, door mirrors scratches, front windscreen scratched, interior grime and scratches, minor scratches and minor dents, marks as per map


Mitsubishi Lancer Evo to Return as a Hot Hybrid Crossover

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR Touring

Most of us already know that the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo is on the way out the door. Mitsubishi has already released a final limited edition of the vehicle to commemorate its exit from their lineup. However, as expected, they do in fact have plans to bring the Evo back to their lineup in the future. What we didn’t expect is the type of car they’re going to do it with.

According to a recent interview with Autocar, Mitsubishi boss Testsuro Aikawa says that the revived Evo would most likely be a performance-oriented hybrid crossover.

Pretty big jump, right?

Aikawa’s justification is simple. He envisions the Evo tagline coming to mean something entirely new for the automaker. He explained it like this: “In Japanese, when you pronounce ‘Oh’ [in Evo], it means ‘king’. So we would like to launch this type of [performance] car, featuring EV and PHEV technology, which is the ultimate of its kind. ‘EV’ for electric vehicle, ‘O’ for king – Evo.”

See how that works? It’s a clever bit of wordplay, and a good way to market the next Evo as the king of electric vehicles.

But what car would receive the Evo treatment?

Mitsubishi XR-PHEV II Concept

When you consider that Mitsubishi’s been building up the release of their next-gen Outlander Sport / ASX PHEV for almost a year now with their XR-PHEV II Concept, it seems reasonable to expect that this would be the next Evo vehicle. In other words, instead of the Lancer Evo, it will be the ASX Evo (or the Outlander Sport Evo, depending on your market).

Keep in mind, the next Evo will definitely not come anytime soon. It won’t be in 2016, and there’s actually no guarantee that it’ll come before 2020. Aikawa was very careful to not give a hard and fast ETA. Instead he simply said, “to develop these kind of vehicles, we have to sell a lot of the base models so we can cover the research and development costs.” In other words, they’re not going to force the next Evo into their lineup; they want it to be a natural evolution of a well-established model.

That being said, Autocar claims that Aikawa isn’t the only Mitsubishi rep. envisioning the ASX as the next Evo. Kaneroi Okamato – the guy who’s in charge of product development – is also on record saying the Evo will eventually be “replaced in spirit by an SUV with high performance.”

Together, they make a pretty compelling case, right? Regardless of how you feel about the EV king wordplay, it’s good to hear that Mitsubishi (A) has a plan for future performance models and (B) that they’re being prudent enough to make sure it pays off.


Nissan Leaf Sets New Annual Sales Record for 2nd Time

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

2014 Nissan Leaf

As kids across the US went door-to-door asking for candy this weekend, Nissan executives were busy celebrating yet another record achievement in October. Two record achievements, in fact; with October’s sales in, the Nissan Leaf EV easily broke a new annual sales record and marked an unprecedented monthly sales goal.

Here are the specifics:

Nissan ended 2013 with a total of 22,610 Leafs sold, which was a new annual record at the time. They ended last month with year-to-date sales at 24,411, shattering their previous record by nearly 2,000 units with two months of sales left to go. If you do the math, it’s looking like Nissan will end the year with nearly 30,000 Leaf sales, which represents a 36% average increase in sales throughout 2014 compared to last year.

Looking over to the monthly sales, Nissan sold 2,589 Leaf electric vehicles last month. That’s not the most they’ve ever sold (they moved 3,186 units in August 2014), but it does mark another record achievement… The Nissan Leaf is the only EV that’s managed to go 20 months in a row with better sales than the same time last year. Compare that to the Chevy Volt, whose 2014 sales are down nearly 15% compared to 2013.

The next EV sales record on Nissan’s radar is for US lifetime sales. The Chevrolet has sold 70,531 Volts since its launch in 2010 compared to the 66,533 lifetime Leaf sales. But it’s only a matter of time… If the Leaf keeps outpacing the Volt by about 1,000 units per month (which it’s done for the past year), then Nissan should claim the lifetime US sales record by the end of Q1 2015.

2012 Nissan Leaf Auction Find

The Nissan Leaf EV has continued to perform above and beyond the competition because, put simply, it’s a better EV. To commemorate Nissan’s October sales achievements, we’ve picked out a pristine 2012 Nissan Leaf from our Integrity Exports Japanese car auction system.

2012 Nissan Leaf EV

You can see that this model has a well-kept metallic black exterior, and the auction sheet (bottom of post) shows only a few minor dings across the entire body.

2012 Nissan Leaf EV interior

Inside, we have a cozy, modern interior with plush seats and some really nice technology. You can see an advanced information display on the dash, with the digital speedometer sitting separately behind and above the steering wheel. You also have a built-in navigation system with flexible entertainment options, along with keyless entry, A/C, power windows, power steering, and anti-lock brakes.

The 2011/2012 model years both ran on Nissan’s original electric powertrain, which boasted and EPA-rated 117 km (73 mile) driving range. However, drivers reported between 62 miles and 138 miles depending on driving conditions.

All in all, we think this is a great Japanese car auction find. Keep reading below for a full translation of the auction sheet:

2012 Nissan Leaf EV auction sheet

“Interior A, G model, ZAA emissions code, FAT, AAC, service book, original alloy wheels, power steering, power windows, original TV, original navigation system, airbag, reversing rearview camera, LED lights, first registered November 2012, first time in auction, side and curtain airbags, charging cable, no SRS, minor interior grime, exterior paintwork has light scratches, light scratches on left front door, light scratches underneath rear bumper, other marks as per map.”


Introducing Leahead – China’s New EV-Only Toyota Sub-Brand

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Toyota Leahead EV

If you had to guess which Japanese automaker would launch a budget-friendly electric vehicle sub-brand in China next year, who’d you guess?

Probably Nissan, right? That’d be a good guess since Nissan and Tesla sold the most EVs in the US last year, and Tesla has already claimed a good chunk of the Chinese EV market share.

Surprisingly, it’s not Nissan, but Toyota. Even as the world’s largest Japanese automaker is moving away from electric vehicles in the US, it looks like they’re embracing them in foreign markets like China. Next year they’ll launch a new marque called Leahead (or Ling Zhi in Chinese), which is meant to evoke the phrase “Leap Ahead”. The sub-brand will exclusively sell economical, city-friendly electric vehicles like the mysteriously unnamed EV Concept from last year’s Shanghai Motor Show (below).

Although… That’s actually not an accurate description of what’s happening, even though that’s what most other auto blogs are reporting around the web.

The folks over at AutoBlog Green were kind enough to contact Toyota directly about their new Chinese project. After all, a new EV-only sub-brand just doesn’t sound like something we’d see from the characteristically HFCV-oriented automaker. A response from Toyota Motor Sales’ communications manager, Jana Hartline, helped us make sense of the move.

2013 Toyota EV Concept from Shanghai

Hartline explained, “Toyota just celebrated the 10-year anniversary of GAC Toyota Motor Co., Ltd (GTMC), its joint-venture manufacturing company in China. And it is GTMC, not Toyota directly, that is the company behind Leahead.”

So, it sounds like Toyota’s association with the new Chinese Leahead EV brand wasn’t really their idea, but rather one that they got on-board with without needing too much persuasion.

Why is an eco-EV JV a good idea for Toyota? Let’s look at the facts:

First, the Chinese government is set to offer significant incentives to EV automakers. A couple years ago the China State Council committed to putting 5 million EVs on Chinese roads by 2020, and just earlier this month they committed to making 30% of all new government vehicles electric.

Second, unlike in the US, low-speed electric vehicles are a hot trend in China. Low-speed means lower manufacturing costs. And as we said, Tesla has already sold their EVs in China with huge success.

With these factors in mind, it’s no surprise how many analysts are claiming that China will be the largest market for electric vehicles in the world within 5 years. It makes perfect sense that Toyota would want a JV partnership to take advantage of that trend.

Rumor has it that we’ll see the first Leahead EV at either the Shanghai Motor Show next April or the Guangzhou Auto Show next November. Either way, the first car is expected to be based on the Chinese Toyota Yaris L.


Nissan News: Cube Dropped, Self-Cleaning Leaf EV & More

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Immaculate Nissan

After the departure of Infiniti boss Johan de Nysschen last week, it has continued to be a busy month for Nissan. In fact, so many things are happening with the world’s second-largest Japanese automaker that we don’t have enough blog posts to cover every single one. So, today we’re going to give you a bird’s eye view of Nissan’s latest goings on with three different news tidbits:

Nissan Cube Dropped for 2015MY

2013 Nissan Cube

If you’ve been saving up for a brand-new Nissan Cube, you’d better plan on buying one before the end of the year. At last week’s Nissan Product Day, the Japanese carmaker released their full 2015 lineup, and the Cube was eerily absent from the list. When questioned about the missing vehicle, a Nissan representative evasively praised to the 2014 Cube instead of giving a real answer.

If Nissan has indeed decided to discontinue the Cube in next year’s lineup, no one can blame them for the decision. Honestly, it probably should have been upgraded before now, as sales have continued to decline year after year. But why give it the chop? This is a modern icon that really just needs a reboot, not termination.

The upside is that Nissan also announced a few key updates at their Product Day. Among the most noteworthy improvements, we can expect a refreshed Juke, a refreshed Nissan GT-R and GT-R NISMO, and a next-gen Nissan Murano due at the end of this year. And also …

Nissan Titan Confirmed for Detroit Debut

We already knew that the next-generation Nissan Titan would make its debut early next year, and we had a sneaking suspicion that it would be at the 2015 Detroit Motor Show. Now, Nissan has officially confirmed it.

While we’re sure we’ll love all the aesthetic updates that Nissan will make to their aged full-size truck, the changes we’re most excited about are those to the powertrain. The current Nissan Titan is only available with a 5.6L V8 petrol engine, but the new one will get two more powertrain options – a smaller V6 petrol and the highly-anticipated Cummins 5.0L V8 diesel, plus an updated version of the current 5.6L.

Self-Cleaning Nissan Leaf

Self-Cleaning Nissan Leaf

Dubbed “the world’s cleanest car” by the proud, EV-loving Japanese automaker, Nissan showed us a self-cleaning Nissan Leaf EV at their Product Day last week. Apparently, they took a normal Nissan Leaf and treated its exterior with an advanced Ultra-Ever Dry paint that repels all the common filth found in typical road conditions. Rain, standing water, mud, sleet and oils stand no chance against the superhydrophobic and oleophobic paint job, which keeps itself clean by creating a microscopic layer of air between the paint and the outside world.

Nissan NA’s VP of Product Planning, Pierre Loing, said, “The 100% electric Leaf provides the perfect canvas for this and new, advanced paint technology. This is one Leaf that never has to stop at gas stations – not even for a car wash.”

Unfortunately, this self-washing paint won’t be available as a stock option for any Nissan vehicle, EV or otherwise, anytime soon as Nissan is still testing the technology. However, there is a reasonable chance that it will eventually be offered as a manufacturer-installed aftermarket option.


Pearl White 2011 Nissan Leaf up for Auction in Osaka

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Nissan quietly surpassed an enormous milestone last month as, for the first time ever, they sold over 3,000 Nissan Leaf EVs in a single month. To be more specific, they sold 3,117 of their little electric vehicles during the month of May. By way of comparison, Nissan only sold 2,138 Leafs during May of 2013 which makes this a 45% increase over last year’s sales.

2012 Nissan Leaf

To commemorate this press-worthy achievement, we’ve decided to showcase a 2012 Nissan Leaf we found up for auction in Osaka, Japan using the Integrity Exports’ auction system. As you continue reading, you’ll see that Japanese car auctions aren’t just for people seeking ‘classic’ or otherwise outdated cars… This Leaf is an excellent example of the caliber of cars available for those willing to look.

But enough auction hype, let’s break down the details:

Since this is the 2011 model year, you’re looking at an original Nissan Leaf, totally unchanged since its launch that year.

You might not know it, but this model year was actually the catalyst for much debate between Nissan, the EPA and the FTC regarding how exactly electric vehicles’ fuel economy should be measured. Nissan originally launched the Leaf in 2011 with a claimed 100 mile driving radius. However, the EPA quoted a range of 73 miles while the FTC quoted a range of 96 miles to 110 miles. The differences between the ranges came down to how each agency carried out their test drives, as well as the specific conditions under which each test took place.

2012 Nissan Leaf rear

In the end, Nissan finally performed their own extensive testing to find that the 2012 Leaf had a worst-case scenario range of 47 miles and a best-case range of 138 miles. The difference between the two figures can be attributed to factors such as weather conditions, driving style and how many accessories you use while you drive.

Now that we’ve talked a bit about the history behind the Nissan Leaf’s 2012 model year, let’s go a bit more in depth about what you can expect from this particular auction find.

First, it really is in excellent condition with an overall 5.0 rating. Both the interior and the Pearl White exterior are in great shape with ‘B’ and ‘A’ grades respectively. As you can see in the pictures, the Nissan Leaf has a very distinct V-shaped front clip with bubbly LEDs reminiscent of a Nissan Juke. Nissan has admitted that they will try to move away from the “EV look” with future model years, but honestly we find this particular model and hue to be very pleasing. It might not be the most aggressive or sporty aesthetic you’ll ever see, but it’s functional with a drag coefficient of just 0.29 – to give you a reference, the newest Nissan GT-R has a drag coefficient of 0.26, so it’s actually not bad at all.

Beneath the hood, the Leaf’s electric powertrain features a 110 hp front-mounted electric motor powered by a 24 kW-hours lith-ion battery pack. Even though it doesn’t sound like much, the Nissan Leaf will have no problem hitting even the highest speed limits with a top speed of 93mph.

Obviously, there’s a lot more that could be said about such a technologically advanced vehicle, but hopefully we’ve given you a decent overview of what you can expect from this Nissan Leaf. If you’d like more info, feel free to continue reading our detailed auction sheet overview below:

2012 Nissan Leaf Auction Sheet

Here is the translation of the inspector’s report. (This is exactly what you would get if you were a customer looking to bid on this car.)

Grade 5, interior B, exterior condition A, first registered Feb 2011, ZAA emissions code, power steering, power windows, airbags, ABS, original navigation system, original TV, AC, LED headlights, solar module, recharging cable loaded inside car, door interior trim has minor scratches, minor interior grime, front windscreen stone scratches, 3/10 tread on all tires, marks as per map


Nissan Hints at Intentions for the Next-Gen Nissan Leaf EV

Posted by Stephen On Monday, May 12th, 2014

Nissan has big changes in store for their next-generation Leaf even though the new model isn’t due for debut until sometime after 2017. There’s no doubt that the Leaf is an important vehicle for Nissan, so they’re going to take the next few years to improve its foundation – the battery.

2014 Nissan Leaf

The information comes via recent interview between Nissan company executives and Automotive News, as well as an interview with Andy Palmer following last month’s Beijing Motor Show.

Better Range from a Better Battery

The 2014 Nissan Leaf has an EPA-estimated driving range of 84 miles, which is a 9-mile improvement over the previous model year’s 75 mile range. However, even though Nissan credits the improvement to some slight mechanical tweaks, the truth is that the EPA updated their driving range calculation for 2014, so nothing’s really changed. Nonetheless, the fact that Nissan wants you to think something’s changed reveals a truth about electric vehicles – better range equals more sales. Nissan’s executives confirmed exactly that in their interview with Automotive News.

So, how do you get better range from an electric vehicle?

With a better battery!

According to the aforementioned interview with Andy Palmer, “Battery chemistry is all about range and energy density. That’s where you see the technology moving very, very fast. This really is the game-changing technology.”

The next obvious question is, exactly how far will the next Nissan Leaf be able to go?

While Palmer didn’t give us a specific answer, he did estimate that an electric vehicle would need to travel a minimum of 186 miles (300km) per charge to compete with the HFCVs that’ll be on the market within the next few years. That would be a 120% improvement over the current Leaf’s range.

In the meantime, Nissan intends to update current and future Leafs over the next couple years with more durable batteries for increased lifespan.

Next-Gen Nissan Leaf Design

Automotive News also elicited a few hints about the next-gen Leaf’s aesthetics, and they’re actually quite interesting. According to Mamoru Aoki, Nissan’s chief of global design, the Japanese automaker has a new policy for electric vehicle design. “The current Leaf is aiming too much at an EV-like appearance. Tesla doesn’t look EV at all. The Tesla S just looks nice, very sporty, sleek, but very authentic.”

To translate this point of view into possible design projections, you can expect the next Nissan Leaf to retain its hatchback structure, but look a lot less like an EV. That means it’ll probably inherit Nissan’s V-Motion design theme with a classy, premium-feeling aesthetic instead of a bubbly, hipster one.

Speaking of premium, Nissan executives also offered a possible launch date for the delayed Infiniti EV sedan. Palmer had already cited insufficient battery technology as the reason for the wait, so with this news about the next-gen Leaf’s improved range, it’s natural to assume the Infiniti EV will come around the same time. That means it’ll probably arrive in late 2016 or early 2017. However, Palmer did explicitly state that it would come BEFORE the next-gen Leaf, citing that the Infiniti EV’s larger body allows more room for a bigger battery.

As you can see, Nissan definitely isn’t going to rest on their laurels with the successful Leaf EV. Even as sales continue to grow year after year, the Japanese car maker is seeking ways to improve their already top-notch vehicle.


Toyota News: i-Road Public Testing, Mazda2-Based Yaris

Posted by Stephen On Friday, March 14th, 2014

While we’re waiting for the 2014 Beijing Motor Show to kick off in April, talk of new Japanese cars has slowed to a standstill. However, we have a couple interesting stories relating to Toyota this week that we’re sure our well-rounded readers would love to know more about.

Toyota i-Road Makes Public Debut in Japan

Toyota i-Road EV

The Toyota i-Road has been in private testing for the past year among a select few Japanese drivers. The innovative little trike had a lot of hoops to jump through with various Japanese government organizations to ensure that the vehicle was safe and road-ready. However, now Toyota is ready to take the next step with their three-wheeled EV city car.

From here on out, the lucky residents of Toyota City in Japan will be able to officially participate in Toyota’s new “optimized urban transport system,” known as Ha:mo. The i-Road fits into that system as one of the key vehicles that Japanese drivers will be able to ‘borrow’ via special Toyota EV-sharing stations.

But, Ha:mo is more than just vehicle sharing stations… It aims to be a convenient and accessible urban transportation system that allows you to plan flexible routes around the city and make optimal use of all available public transportation. Using your smart phone, you can plan a route from wherever you are to wherever you need to be, making equal use of EV sharing stations, trains, buses, and whatever else is available.

Take a look at one of Ha:mo’s vehicle sharing stations, and the Toyota i-Road in action, below:

For our non-Japanese readers, don’t despair – the Toyota i-Road will make its way into Grenoble, France later this year, and we’re sure Toyota is looking at other cities throughout Europe (and perhaps the rest of the world) for the future.

Mazda2-Based Yaris to Use SkyActiv Tech.

Mazda Hazumi Concept

All the way on the other side of the world, Toyota and Mazda have just confirmed an agreement that will involve the next-gen Toyota Yaris. Apparently, Toyota intends for the next North American version of the Yaris to be based off the Mazda2 subcompact. Not only that, the vehicle will also be built in Mazda’s brand-new Mexico plant, and will use a vehicle-tuned SkyActiv direct-injection engine.

The agreement won’t actually come into fruition until sometime during 2015, but it’s a win-win for both automakers. Toyota gets to save on exporting, and gets to use a proven, high-quality vehicle and powertrain. Mazda gets to make full use of their Mexico operations, and the brand-awareness that naturally comes when you work with Toyota.

Whether or not the new Mazda2-based Toyota will be based off the current Mazda2 or the one previewed by the Hazumi Concept remains to be seen, but logically we’d expect it to be the latter.

This is great news for Mazda fans and Toyota fans alike, and we’re thrilled to see Mazda’s SkyActiv technology finally get the recognition it deserves.