Better Place partner Nissan mulls own electric car project

Better Place itself also seeks to operate in Japan.

Japanese car maker Nissan is examining ways of setting up a charging infrastructure for an electric car in Japan. The company is looking for business models that will help it overcome the problems of marketing electric cars. Nissan will supply the electric vehicles and batteries for the Israeli "Better Place" project, but it is carrying out its current market research independently, with no connection to the Israeli company.

Reports in the Japanese press say that Nissan has begun the project in collaboration with the University of Tokyo and commercial companies. The project will involve dozens of Japanese companies, from battery manufacturers to real estate and infrastructure companies. It aim is to overcome the problems that currently prevent widespread use of electric vehicles. Among these problems are the cost of the batteries, which is almost as high as that of the vehicle itself, and setting up infrastructure for fast battery charging.

Nissan will also examine the possibility of leasing out the batteries separately from the cars to make the cars cheaper to buy. The leasing model is a key component of Better Place's plan. Japan is one of the countries in which Better Place is trying to implement its business model, and Nissan's independent project, if it comes to fruition, will compete with it in the future.

Nissan is also participating alongside Subaru and Mitsubishi in a Japanese government project sponsored by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to promote electric vehicles in Japan. The project includes field trials for charging stations, examination of new models for insurance, and finding ways of promoting the idea in the media. However, the planning stage of the government project is scheduled to take until 2015, while Nissan has committed to putting electric cars on the road this year.

Mitsubishi has also announced that, next year, it will launch a compact electric car that it is developing. Senior Mitsubishi managers said however that the car would initially be offered only to vehicle fleets and under operating leases. Towards 2010 the cars will also be offered to private customers, still under operating leases, with ownership being retained by the company.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on June 18, 2008

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2008

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