Nissan gets serious on BEVs

Gimmicky show launch should not detract from a display of intent

Nissan gets serious on BEVs
The Hyper Urban e-SUV crossover was among the concepts Nissan displayed

There was lots to dislike about Japanese OEM Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida’s presentation to the press day of the Japan Mobility Show this week, particularly for a grumpy, middle-aged, male Western journalist. But, at the same time, Nissan alone among its peers put concepts for potential mass-market passenger BEVs at the centre of its pitch.

Avatars for each of the five concepts it was displaying; virtual versions on the video game Fortnite; the Hyper Force e-sportscar where gamers — that well-known sportscar-buying demographic — will apparently hone their skills in VR before also taking them on a track in real life; seats that face each other in some undefined autonomous driving future in the “living room on wheels” Hyper Tourer all-electric minivan; a totally unironic use of the phrase ‘digital nomad’. The presentation was not for those with weak stomachs for marketing drivel.

But, cutting through the dreadful PR spiel, there were three viable options for passenger BEVs that could actually sell in reasonable numbers. The Hyper Urban e-SUV crossover, the Hyper Adventure sports SUV and the Hyper Punk all-electric compact crossover concepts offer the possibility, if all developed to launch, of giving Nissan the beginnings of a BEV range that could allow it to compete in relatively mass-market segments.

The firm also stressed the V2X capabilities it plans for its new generation of BEVs. And even its premium brand, Infiniti, got in on the act — unveiling an all-electric fastback sedan concept, the Vision Qe, as well as teasing an advanced all-electric SUV under a Vision QXe label.

Nissan was not the only Japanese marque to present new potential mass-market passenger BEVs at the show — Toyota also had three in its line-up. And there was not a lot of detail on any timeframes towards moving the concepts into production.

But whereas the CEOs of Toyota and Honda took their moments on stage to show off BEVs far removed from any core line-up, Uchida’s pitch had all three concepts on stage and fully outlined in his speech. The show also marked the debut attendance of the world’s largest EV maker, China’s BYD.

And it did not waste its opportunity discussing van/minibuses modelled on shipping containers. It focused on to two passenger BEVs already on sale in Japan and a third arriving next year, as well as two more models from its subsidiaries.

It remains to be seen, for cultural, historical and possibly future political reasons, how effectively BYD and its Chinese EV peers will be able to compete in Japan. But the Tokyo event was an opportunity for Japan’s most senior OEM executives to showcase how seriously they are taking that potential threat and their arsenal for repelling it. Nissan’s trio of concept cars on stage seemed an encouraging step in that direction.  

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