Next Nissan EVs: Mainstream look, better battery

Palmer: Battery chemistry "is all about range and energy density."
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BEIJING -- For the next-generation Leaf electric vehicle, Nissan plans more mainstream styling and a new battery that greatly increases the car's range. And Infiniti's delayed electric car will debut with the improved battery by early 2017.

A new battery chemistry will debut around 2017 for use by Infiniti and Nissan, said Andy Palmer, executive vice president in charge of Nissan's zero emissions and Infiniti businesses. "The battery chemistry is all about range and energy density. That's where you see the technology moving very, very fast," he said.

Palmer declined to offer a target range. But EV batteries must deliver up to 300 kilometers, or 186 miles, for the cars to present an everyday alternative to the hydrogen fuel cell cars that rivals are developing, he said. The Leaf's current range is 84 miles.

Nissan has not announced timing for the next-generation Leaf or Infiniti EV. But the Infiniti EV will go on sale "close enough to be counted" as part of Nissan's Power 88 business plan, which ends March 31, 2017, and should arrive before the luxury brand gets its long-awaited top-shelf halo car, Palmer old Automotive News, a sister publication of Automotive News Europe, at the Beijing auto show.

The redesigned Leaf likely would arrive just after the Infiniti EV, he hinted.

The Infiniti EV may have a greater range than the Leaf because its sedan packaging can accommodate a bigger battery.

In terms of styling, Nissan will keep the hatchback layout for the Leaf but seek a more mainstream look, design executives said.

The car will keep certain cues denoting its electric nature, such as no grille aperture. But it will cleave more closely to the Nissan brand's new unified design language, with the brand's new V Motion plunging V-shaped front fascia and the floating roof evoked by blacked-out pillars, as seen in the redesigned Rogue crossover.

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com. -- Follow Hans on Twitter

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