Nissan Motor India, a unit of the Yokohama-based Japanese carmaker, has an extended history of working with EVs, with its four-seater Tama Electric Car that ran on lead-acid batteries debuting way back in 1947. Its first generation Leaf was launched in 2010, and the second generation — with better design and a longer range (400 km, compared to the earlier 225 km) — in 2017, making the Leaf the world’s largest-selling electric vehicle. Nissan is currently doing a pilot testing for the Leaf to assess the actual range in actual road conditions in India, even as specific details such as a launch dates and battery variant for India are still being worked out, Bruno Grippay, Director, Connected Cars and Product Planning – AMI (Africa Middle East and India) Region of Nissan, toldAnil Sasi. Edited excerpts:
There were reports that Nissan had planned to launch the first-generation Leaf in India and that the plans were subsequently deferred. What has changed between then and now for Nissan to take a call on launching the second-gen Leaf in India?
The Leaf is the highest selling EV in the world with over 400,000 units sold so far… Electrification is a key pillar for Nissan and we are focused on bringing our EV and, e-Power technology in India. Currently, we are doing a pilot testing for the Leaf to assess the actual range of km in real situations. We want to bring the most advanced EV technology to Indian customers with the new Leaf and premium equipment, such as e-Pedal mode.
Can the car be expected by the end of the year? What are the volumes that you’re looking at over, say, a five-year time frame?
Nissan is committed … and looks forward to the opportunity to contribute to the development of the EV market in India. Looking at the government’s strong initiative to promote EVs in India, and consumers increasing desire for clean and efficient mobility, there is no doubt there will be tremendous growth in the sales of EVs. In the initial years, we will be focusing on B2B segment. As the infrastructure improves in the country, there is greater economies-of-scale and cost of the battery reduces, we will be in a position on reaching out to individual buyers. However, at this time, we don’t think anyone can offer a figure as how sales will figure 8-10 years down the road.
A CBU (completely built unit) import would price the Leaf at about Rs 40 lakh (ex-showroom). Is there a timeframe to transition to an assembly model for the Leaf in India to bring down the prices?
Speculations around the price notwithstanding, it all depends on the demand. This is the major factor that will decide whether it is feasible for us to start manufacturing the Leaf here. However, we feel that the strong initiatives by the government to promote electric mobility in India will drive the future of our industry in the long-term.
Of the two powertrains on offer globally, has a decision been made to offer the one with the 40kWh battery system here? Given that the charging ecosystem is still evolving here, does it not make sense to offer the 62kWh battery system for India (given its range), or is it simply priced out of the market in the CBU format?
We will be in a better position to talk about the battery that will available with the Leaf closer to the date of the launch. This is part of the current pilot in Indian roads to evaluate the best offer we can bring to this market.
What are your views on the Budget sops announced last month. Does the charging infrastructure need to achieve a certain critical mass for EVs to take off?
We appreciate the government’s commitment toward electrification of cars in the country.
The recent sops on GST and tax exemptions will encourage customers (to consider EVs) … We feel it is a long road ahead when it comes to EVs becoming a viable alternative to internal combustion engine.
Infrastructure is just one factor along with the cost of the battery. It is not a hindrance as proved by the success of Note e-Power (Nissan’s electric hybrid offering being tested for India), far flung charging stations are not a problem when you can charge the battery with petrol engine. The e-Power borrows from the EV technology perfected in the Nissan Leaf, adding a petrol engine to charge the high-output battery when necessary. This eliminates the need for an external charger and remove the range anxiety from the customers, while offering the same high output as an EV… India can take a Leaf out of what Norway did. Norway, the biggest EV market by percentage, relaxed import duties on EVs apart from incentivising charging stations developers and battery manufacturers to make it a conducive environment for all stakeholders.