As my favorite rock group, the Byrds sang, "One of America's great national pastimes is the worship of speed." We like to drive fast in big cars, and we pay for it with our insatiable oil addiction. But enough preaching.
The Nissan Cube electric prototype may foreshadow vehicles to come. Jim Motavalli photo
Nissan has announced that it will have an electric car available to the general public by 2012. The motor press says it will have a range of 100 miles, top off at 75 mph, and take eight hours to recharge. These figures are not likely to get anyone too excited.
I asked 28-year-old Erik, who drives a VW Rabbit with sport rims, if he'd ever consider buying an electric car. "Never!" he declared. "They're a pipe dream. GM tried electric cars [the EV1] in the 1990s and they failed. Why would they work now?"
Erik likes to go fast, and he'd no doubt consider the Nissan electric impossibly slow. Getting to that top speed might take him into next week. The car may be a version of the boxy Nissan Cube, shown off at the New York Auto Show this year. Lithium-ion batteries are part of the package, and the company is also working with small 20-horsepower motors in each of the four wheels (a version that could be on the market by 2015). Nissan partner Renault is also involved.
Nissan intends its electric cars (there could be more than one model) for commuters, most of whom travel less than 100 miles a day. But that's always been true, and it hasn't resulted in significant battery sales. If this new car is going to sell at all, it better be affordable.
The battery car world is reacting cautiously to the news. Ron Freund, chairman of the Electric Auto Association, says, "We remain hopeful that one of the majors will indeed produce a product that we know can be made. I'll believe it when I see it in the showrooms."
Nissan North America spokesman John Schilling isn't saying much, either. "We will be bringing to the U.S. an EV product," he said. "We're not sure what it will be and what it will look like -- there's no prototype."
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