If We Build It, Will They Come? (to Electric Cars, That Is)

Nissan LEAF Smyrna Plant

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is surely a believer in EVs and predicts sales of “as many as 500,000 electric cars a year by 2012.” Which is “just wildly optimistic,” says a noted automotive consultant in the same story.

President Obama has set a goal of 1 million plug-ins and battery-powered vehicles on our roads by 2015, so maybe Carlos isn’t so crazy. The man is putting the U.S. government’s loan money—$1.4 billion of the $1.7 the company is investing (good deal, no?)—in the ground at Smyrna, Tenn., where the North American Leaf will be built (rendering above) along with a new plant to furnish its lithium-ion batteries.

Is that a leap of faith or a sound business decision?

A bit of both, we suspect, but to support that judgment, consider that the 2011 Leaf is now sold out, with 19,000 orders worldwide (13,000 of them from the U.S.). The new factory in Smyrna will produce up to 150,000 cars a year; the companion plant can make 200,000 lithium-ion battery packs.

Canadian parts company Magna also just announced it had earmarked $200-300 million for two new battery plants, one in the EU, one in the U.S. Magna’s new business will produce “complete vehicles as well as battery units.” (Their Milan EV Concept at right.) The company is looking for joint-venture partners.

We can also expect to see more (and larger) companies enter the market to produce charging stations. A new report projects that some 4.7 million stations will be needed around the world by year 2015. GE, Panasonic, Siemens, and Samsung are getting into the game.

About 1 million of these stations will be in the U.S., says the study, where home charging is likely to predominate. The study also projects that over 3.1 million EVs and hybrids will be sold around the world in the next five years.

If these indicators of demand can be believed, the EVs are indeed coming. It’s been a very long road, and Automoblog.net has put together a clever graphic of electric progress and setbacks over the years. Check it out.

Let us have your opinion on Carlos Ghosn’s decision to go whole-hog into electrics.


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