Japanese Nissan cuts electric vehicle costs and reduces use of rare materials

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese automaker Nissan is accelerating its shift to electrification and cutting costs by using the same components across all models and reducing the use of expensive rare materials.

Nissan Motor Co. on Thursday outlined its “X-in-1” development strategy, in which the X represents various powertrain parts such as an electric motor and an inverter that can be used on all models. The company said development and manufacturing costs will be reduced by 30% in 2026 compared to 2019 levels.

The Yokohama-based automaker was a pioneer in electric vehicles, but rivals like Tesla and China’s BYD have overtaken it.

As the shift towards eco-friendly models gathers momentum around the world, driven by concerns over climate change, Nissan is eager to show off its prowess.

Its senior vice president, Toshihiro Hirai, acknowledged that the prices of rare earths and other materials needed to make electric vehicle batteries and other parts are expected to rise in coming years. This means automakers must have a solid strategy for obtaining raw materials if they hope to achieve electrification success.

“We are making the most of our expertise and know-how from more than a decade of developing and producing electrified technologies,” Hirai said.

Compared to the first generation vehicle, the Leaf, rare materials make up 25% of the weight of the 2019 Nissan Note EV. Nissan aims to make that 1% or less.

Nissan, which also makes the March subcompact and Infiniti luxury models, is working on solid-state battery technology for electric vehicles, a move that, if successful, should cut costs dramatically.

By 2030, Nissan’s electric vehicle offerings will cost about the same at dealerships as equivalent regular gasoline-powered models, Hirai said.

The cheapest EVs like the Leaf now sell for less than $30,000, though smaller cars with internal combustion engines are cheaper, at around $21,000 for the Nissan Sentra in the US.

A Tesla Model 3, a relatively affordable model for a Tesla, sells for around $43,000.

But electric vehicles are generally eligible for tax credits and other incentives. High gas prices could make electric vehicles a smart long-term purchase, though much of that depends on the owner’s driving habits.

A Consumer Reports analysis last year said that based on the then gas price of $4.31 a gallon, EV owners could save between $1,800 and $2,600 in operating and maintenance costs for every 15,000 miles they drive, compared to gas-powered drivers.

This is the average distance traveled by new vehicles in a year in the United States. Gasoline prices have since fallen, so the savings would be smaller but still significant.

Hirai said people find driving an electric vehicle less stressful because it is quiet and offers a smooth ride even on rough terrain while maintaining the fun feeling of driving. One of the advantages of an electric vehicle is its more precise control over each wheel, which can effectively counter shocks and jolts.

Nissan has promised 27 new electrified models, including eight e-Power “series hybrid” models, featuring both a gasoline engine and an electric motor, by fiscal year 2030.


Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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