Oh, Nissan. You’ve spent many years searching for your car-building voice amid an ever-competitive car industry, building things that are just fine but never great, committing to a notoriously bad CVT gearbox, and stamping out the same sports car for 12 years straight. Finally, things are happening and some exciting new stuff is coming out of the once-great car company from Japan, with a sports car and a big commitment to EVs.
It’s easy to forget that Nissan took a huge risk putting the original Nissan Leaf EV to market over a decade ago. Tesla leapfrogged the Leaf on specifications, and Nissan never seemed to follow up with any heart. But now, Nissan has announced that it has a plan to get fired up about the future. An ambitious one at that, and one with some strange and interesting EV concepts.
Welcome to Headlight. This is a daily news feature that lights up one current event in the car world and breaks it down by three simple subheadings: What Happened, Why It Matters, and What To Look For Next. Look for it in the morning (Eastern time) every weekday.
Nissan has unveiled a new long-term vision for its company dubbed “Nissan Ambition 2030” along with some concept EVs. It is a 10-year plan that outlines a total company strategy, engineering goals, and investment into a sprawling plan that places heavy emphasis on electric cars. Most of the goals in the plan are set to be achieved by 2030, hence the name, but a few continue beyond that self-imposed deadline.
The most exciting part of this press release is Nissan committing to a release window for its proprietary solid-state battery technology, expected to launch by 2028.
A dedicated pilot plant in Yokohama, Japan will be made ready by 2024 for a gradual ramp to full production of its solid-state batteries. With this move, Nissan aims to bring the cost of battery packs down to $75 per kWh by 2028, and $65 per kWh after that to achieve “cost parity between EV and gasoline vehicles.”
Its global battery production capacity is getting a large bump as well, up to 52 GWh by 2026 and 130 GWh by 2030. All of those batteries will be handled with a sprawling global supply plan with EV36Zero. It wants to localize production and refurbishing and aim for carbon neutrality, building a circular economy that keeps batteries around for longer.
Overall, it’s a serious plan with an interesting, almost alarming, short timeline for major developments.
Several more hard numbers and goals are quoted by Nissan, all interesting to digest:
- Nissan aims to introduce 23 electrified (called e-POWER) models including 15 EVs by 2030.
- It also intends to have 50-percent of Nissan and Infiniti cars electrified in some capacity in the same timeframe.
- It showed off this electric push with three new concept cars called the MAX-OUT, HANG-OUT, and SURF-OUT. They are supposed to demonstrate the possibilities of the brave new EV world, but they mostly look like more mobility-focused concept work.
Let’s come back around to that in the next section, but there is still more to come with the Nissan Ambition 2030 plan.
By 2026, Nissan wants to expand its ProPILOT advanced driver assistance suite to more models and wants to add LIDAR systems to every new model by 2030, signaling a big push towards more advanced autonomous vehicle technologies. While autonomous cars are still very much not real, a higher SAE level of automation would put Nissan in line with competitors like GM’s Super Cruise and Tesla’s (poorly named) Autopilot.
Why It Matters
Enthusiasts, like you or I, are well aware that the EV future is coming if not already here. Don’t panic, it won’t be all bad. Nobody is going to miss when the Altima had its wheezy 2.5-liter inline-four or industry-standard turbocharged 2.0-liter engine. In fact, once we get our charging infrastructure bullshit totally squared away, the EV version of most cars will be a huge improvement to driving on many levels.
Seeing more solid plans being announced by automakers is a big step, especially from please-wake-up-I’m-poking-you-with-a-stick Nissan. I’m especially fascinated by the concrete-feeling timeline for solid-state batteries, which will be an immeasurably major development for EVs in the long term. Nissan is taking serious swings and I hope that it is approaching this with vigor.
To commemorate this grand occasion, Nissan also gave us three concept cars that have varying levels of relevance. The names are dumb and obviously aim squarely for words like “dynamic”, “sporty”, “mobility”, “youth”, and whatever other stuff that it believes that young people (like myself) really like.
The Hang-Out concept of “an extension of personal space” is pretty uninspired as far as concepts go, and Max-Out is some kind of roadster. As far as I’m concerned, the Surf-Out truck is the coolest one by far. T-tops go a long way, brother. The Chill-Out crossoverish one seems to be the mass-appeal machine.
If there is a concept I’d want Nissan to make into something, it would certainly be the Surf-Out. A small EV pickup truck with T-tops and some off-road chops sounds appealing as heck to me. I could carry my electric dirtbike in the back, take the tops off, and go for a panoramic sort of day in the forest. As far as the other two, I haven’t quite achieved the level I need in life to appreciate the need for an EV roadster. Isn’t having an engine the whole point with a vehicle like that?
We’re hyped to see Nissan flexing some creativity, though. This concept fleet and statement of ambitions balances against the nostalgia trip delivered by the new Z. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this automaker seem to wake up and try with an interesting future-focused plan. Concept cars don’t always mean anything but the Ambition 2030 plan seems to mean a lot. It has been a shame to see the poor Leaf cower in the corner of the EV market… but now, big guns are coming.
What To Look For Next
What will be most interesting to watch is how the battery development race heats up and sparks a competition like we haven’t seen for a good while. Solid-state batteries are coming and it is a matter of who and when can get it in their car first.
I suspect that major developments for EVs are coming in the short term. Things are heating up, and fast. The progression of the next decade is being decided as you read this. If that doesn’t excite you, I’m not sure what will.
Bonus Concept Car Gallery
Take a closer look at more images Nissan released of its concepts here.
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