There’s typically a lot of green between Tennessee and Oregon. But the two states have something in common when it comes to the future of vehicle technology: Nissan has selected both states (the only two so far) to debut its all-electric car in 2010.
The Oregonian’s Richard Read reports that Nissan was drawn to Oregon’s “green vision,” including its installation of vehicle charging hubs.
Under Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s leadership, Oregon is already building electric vehicle charging stations. And Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen penned an understanding this summer to begin building stations in the Volunteer State. The first roll-out of the vehicles will be for government and commercial fleets.
Click below to read the extended post and The Oregonian’s coverage.
Nissan plugs into Oregon’s green vision, selecting state to help debut electric vehicles
By Richard Read, The Oregonian
Wednesday November 19, 2008
Scrolling through e-mail in Tennessee last July, Mark Perry noticed that Oregon — the nation’s hybrid-car capital — was installing electric-vehicle charging stations.
Perry, product-planning director for Nissan North America, called Portland General Electric Co., which had installed its first station outside its downtown headquarters.
Perry, PGE and Gov. Ted Kulongoski soon hatched the deal announced Wednesday by Nissan Motor Co.’s chief executive at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The Japanese automaker will include Oregon among a handful of sites worldwide to pioneer zero-emission vehicles, starting in 2010 with government and commercial fleets.
Details — such as numbers of cars and their costs — were still being negotiated even as Kulongoski drove a prototype Nissan electric vehicle in Japan this week. The program is another green feather in the governor’s cap as he prepares to visit a company Friday developing electric cars in China.
“Our goal is mass-marketing vehicles across the U.S. and globally” in 2012, said Nissan’s Perry. “We all believe that we’ll be mass-marketing in Oregon much faster than that.”
The race to produce zero-emission vehicles is gathering particular speed in Asia, where Toyota has moved part way by hatching the plug-in Prius — a car that’s already debuted in Oregon, the state with the nation’s highest per capita hybrid ownership.
Nissan is forging ahead with pure-electric vehicles, promising an affordable car with a range of at least 100 miles. Marketers haven’t chosen a name for the car, which is expected to come in sleeker models than the boxy test vehicle Kulongoski tried out Tuesday.
A video of the governor posted on Nissan’s Web site shows him accelerating in the car, unfazed by its right-hand drive.
“The future is now,” he says, “and it’s in that automobile.”
Perry described the car Kulongoski drove as a “test mule.” The vehicle Nissan will introduce in Oregon will be a completely new car, he said.
“It’s not a conversion,” Perry said. “It’s a brand-new, ground-up vehicle, well designed, with all the amenities, crash-tested.
“Some people think of an electric vehicle as a glorified golf cart. This is a real car that will be completely capable.”
Over the past several months, PGE has installed six charging stations in Portland and Salem. Pacific Power has one in Corvallis. More stations are on the way.
“We’re looking at addressing the need for charging corridors,” said Joe Barra, PGE customer energy resources director. Installing farther-flung stations — as well as higher-voltage equipment for quicker charges — would give motorists more range and take the program statewide.
Ultimately, officials expect most charging stations to be installed in private homes once the cars hit the market. Charging the cars overnight at off-peak hours will avoid straining the power grid. The electrics will have a smaller carbon footprint than gas-powered cars, engineers say, mainly because their electricity will originate, in part, from renewable energy.
Oregon fleet managers are enthusiastic about the vehicles, while awaiting sticker prices, which Nissan expects to be comparable to conventional gas-powered cars.
“We’re excited about Nissan having this car,” said Kent Fretwell, the state of Oregon’s Administrative Services Department fleet operations manager.
Fretwell’s fleet includes about one-third of the 12,000 state-owned vehicles. He’d like to buy some Nissan electrics, assuming the price is right.
A half-dozen Nissan employees met confidentially with Oregon fleet managers Oct. 1, asking what features would be attractive in electric cars.
Their questions impressed John Hunt, fleet director for the city of Portland, which has 2,850 vehicles. Hunt’s fleet includes about 60 hybrids, and he’d like to add Nissan electrics.
“I like to be right on the cutting edge of technology, but I don’t like to leap off the cliff,” Hunt said. “We try to avoid buying dozens” of a new type of car “until we have a chance to give it a shot.”
Nissan’s Perry declined to speculate how many electrics would come to Oregon. He said the number would be “significant.” Nissan will have no production constraints, he said.
“This is not a test,” Perry said. “This is not a demo. This is a first move to mass-marketing.”
3,000 cars for Japan
In Japan’s Kanagawa prefecture, Nissan managers aim to introduce 3,000 electric vehicles by 2014. Other international launch sites are Israel, Denmark and Portugal.
The only other U.S. site so far is Tennessee, site of Nissan’s U.S. headquarters in Nashville and one of its two U.S. factories. Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen signed a memorandum of understanding in July but charging stations have yet to be installed there, said Will Pinkston, a senior aide to the governor.
“It seems like the Oregon conversation may be a little further along,” Pinkston said. “Nissan has not given us any details about what the price point might be or what they expect to see on the road in the immediate future.”
Kulongoski, continuing his weeklong Asian trade trip, is now in China with his delegation. On Friday, he’ll visit BYD Co., a battery company in Shenzhen that is developing electric cars.
Pat Egan, a Pacific Power vice president, returned to Portland this week after test-driving cars at BYD, which is related to PacifiCorp through parent company MidAmerican Energy Holdings. He came away impressed not only by the company’s electric cars but also by its in-house battery technology, its charging equipment, its solar panels and its sheer size — at 130,000 employees.
“We’re excited, because we have the direct corporate relationship with them,” Egan said, which could lead to more activity in Oregon.