Green Update–>Infiniti, Mitsubishi, the P-Eco, and Other Electric News

March 23rd, 2010

Infiniti Essence conceptCarlos Ghosn, President and CEO of Nissan, came on strong last year at the Tokyo Motor Show, where he announced that Infiniti was building a concept “stylish, compact, high performance four-seat luxury Infiniti with zero emissions.” Recent reports say the new EV will use the Nissan Leaf platform, though the car will be much faster than the Leaf. It may or may not look like the Essence concept pictured here.

The gnostic Mr. Ghosn had these further remarks to make about EVs:

We want lots of buyers quickly, so we are making a family car. We have no intention to make a niche EV. Besides, big vehicles are too heavy for today’s batteries, which is why our car will be compact.

Mitsubishi i-MiEVJapanese companies are dead serious about electric cars. Mitsubishi announced today that it intends to triple annual production of its i-MiEV over the next three years. The plan is to make 9,000 this fiscal year (starting April 1), 18,000 the next, and 30,000 starting April 2012. Ambitious, huh? Especially since they have sold 1,400 to date in Japan, with no plans to hit the U.S. until April of 2011.

At a price of 4.59 million yen ($51,000), the i-MiEV is more than twice the cost of a Toyota Prius. Its big competitor will be the Leaf, which like the i-MiEV will run up to 100 miles on one battery charge. Mitsubishi says it’s working to bring the price down to the Prius level.

So, have these guys got stars in their eyes and beans for brains? Yeah, I think so. There will be bottlenecks and severe limitations on how fast the EV market can grow, and no one can accurately predict production advancements or tech breakthroughs or realignments in infrastructure. No one can predict the future, not even Carlos Ghosn.

We all know the big problem right now is batteries. A story in Automotive News (subscription) says that as infrastructure builds out to support EVs, by 2018-2020 “consumer demand for battery-powered vehicles will take off,” and demand for lithium ion batteries will grow to four times the present capacity.

P-Eco electric carSo the more crazy ideas car designers and builders can come up with, the better. Maybe some will take hold. One especially far-out concept is the P-Eco, from the current Michelin Challenge Design competition. The P-Eco uses bumps and vibrations and other movements to generate electricity by piezoelectric devices and recharge its batteries.

Okay, skeptics, we know piezo devices aren’t nearly efficient enough to recharge car batteries alone today. But shouldn’t such thinking be encouraged?

—jgoods

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    Heck yes, original thinking about how to recharge battery-powered cars, not to mention a ton of other efficiency issues & technologies, should be encouraged! All the ideas generated won’t work over the long term, of course, but we clearly need more & new approaches to reduce our dependency on foreign oil and the amount of greenhouse gases cars in America produce every day.

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