Nissan has announced that all its new vehicles in key markets would be electrified by the early 2030s, as part of the company’s drive to carbon neutrality by 2050. This is part of a global trend, with Mercedes and Audi recently announcing that they have stopped the development of future internal combustion engines (ICE), and GM also jumping feet first into the fray. In the meantime, Britain has moved their ban on non-electric cars forward by five years to 2030.
Have they all gone mad? Why now? Why so suddenly?
The obvious reason, as given by all, is the fight against climate change. But we have known about the threat to the climate for years, so what has changed? Firstly, keep in mind that companies make what their clients want. Those that don’t are doomed. And politicians cannot dictate our desires either. And so far we wanted ICE-driven vehicles – finish and klaar. Cars are powered by petrol or diesel and that is that. Or is it?
Electric cars are as old as ICE cars – older in fact. . The first one was produced in the 1830s, with the first practical vehicles coming along in the 1870s. Steam was also a major contender then. But the ICE-driven vehicle proved easier to put on the road in numbers, especially since 1908 with the Model T. So ICE has dominated the motoring scene for about 100 years before the first Tesla Model S broke the mould in 2008. There are people alive today born before the Model T.
What has changed? A few things. Climate change has become more visible: Cape Town’s Day Zero scare not long ago, wildfires in California and Australia, floods everywhere. This video alone will motivate many to charge the ole battery.
But there were other changes as well. Renewable energy – solar and wind – has become cheaper than anything else, while the means to store bulk electricity has improved significantly. Batteries for EVs are dropping in price at the same rate they are increasing in range. Kilo for kilo, EVs are knocking the socks off ICE in performance and running costs, and soon there will be parity in the purchase price as well. The need for EVs has become urgent at the same time the technology is maturing and the cost is starting to make sense.
So does this mean Nissan is only following the herd, bowing to consumer demand and political pressure? Yes and no. Yes, because it has to make cars that people want and the political environment demands. No, because it started making EVs long before it became fashionable.
The Nissan LEAF was launched in 2010, the mass-market electric car quietly outselling anything else you could plugin. Now in its second generation, the LEAF has been joined by a number of other EVs like the e-power Nissan Note and the Ariya. We acknowledge Merc and Audi and GM going electric, but Nissan’s announcement carries weight because it is built on a decade of commitment to the EV cause.
The full-electric launch will happen in ‘key markets’: Japan, the USA, China and Europe because that is where the EV infrastructure is now. What about South Africa? Long regarded as the gateway to Africa, with loads of sunshine and lots of wind, we are made for renewable-driven EVs – so give us lots of cheap, eco-friendly power to drive South Africa and the rest of Africa.