Nissan Aims To Be Number One In Electric Cars

Will launch its own vehicle early next decade.

Japan's Nissan Motor Co., seeking to catch up with rivals such as Toyota in energy-saving motoring, said April 13 it aimed to become a leader in electric vehicles through a joint venture with NEC Corp. Nissan and NEC said they would invest 490 million yen (US$4.1 million) in the 50-50 joint venture, to be named Automotive Energy Supply Corp. (AESC), in the aim of mass production of lithium-ion batteries for cars by 2009.

Japan's number two automaker said it would launch its own electric vehicle powered by the lithium-ion batteries by the early part of the next decade. It will also use batteries developed by the venture in its own hybrid vehicle by 2010 and accelerate the development of hybrid plug-in technology that can use grid power to recharge batteries as well as onboard charging.

Nissan said it would try to sell the technology to rival automakers. There are currently no plans to build a new plant to produce the batteries.

"We aim to be the leading company in mass production of lithium-ion batteries for the global automotive community," said Nissan executive vice president Carlos Tavares. "We believe that lithium-ion batteries will become the key power source for the future generations of electric-powered green vehicles," he said.

The dream of an electric car, which has been around since the time of Thomas Edison, has so far failed to break into the mainstream because of limited battery life that makes such vehicles impractical for most purposes.

Nissan is not the only automaker chasing the dream -- Toyota Motor Corp. has a joint venture in batteries with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.

Under a green push it announced last year, Nissan also aims to introduce a vehicle running entirely on bio-ethanol fuel for the Brazilian market by 2009 and launch a next-generation fuel cell early in the next decade.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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