Nissan wants e-NV200 to win sales from diesels

The Nissan e-NV200 has a top speed of 120kph and can travel 170km on a charge.
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Nissan wants fleet managers in Europe to turn away from diesel-powered delivery vans in favor of its new battery-powered e-NV200.

Two key reasons to make the switch are better handling and lower running costs, said Thomas Ebeling, Nissan general manager for product strategy and planning. Compared with fuel-powered versions of the van, the e-NV200 has faster, smoother acceleration because of its 80-kilowatt electric motor.

In addition, it offers better handling because the battery tucked in the subframe under the middle of the car gives it a lower center of gravity, which improves stability and reduces body roll.

The e-NV200 also has a wider stance and costs 40 percent less to operate than its diesel sibling, Ebeling said, adding that most of the savings come from the not having an engine to maintain.

"I am convinced we have a better product than what is on the market today," Ebeling said. "It is not for everyone, but it is a perfect solution for some people."

Fast facts
Who are the target buyers?
Company fleets and private business owners are expected to account for 70 percent of total sales for the e-NV200.
Does the car take the brand in a new direction?
The e-NV200 is part of the Renault-Nissan alliance's 4-billion euro investment in battery-powered vehicles. It follows the Leaf hatchback as the second of four EVs Nissan pledges to sell by March 31, 2017. Renault already offers four EVs: the Twizy, Zoe, Fluence and Kangoo. Nissan says the e-NV200's advantages over the EV version of the Kangoo light van are that it is less expensive, it has more room and it offers the option of quick charging.
Any game-changing technology?
The e-NV200's 24 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery has a range of 170km.
What market influences does this car respond to?
Automakers need to reduce the average CO2 fleet emissions from light commercial vehicles to 149 grams per kilometer by 2020 from 173g/km last year.
Does the car have any features that are unique in its segment?
Nissan says the e-NV200 is the first fleet-focused vehicle with LED front running lights. Since it emits no emissions the vehicle can be driven right into a building to make deliveries without risk of causing pollution problems.

Nissan estimates that there are about 200,000 fleet vans operating in Europe that never travel more than 120km a day. Without revealing how many units Nissan plans to sell, Ebeling said those 200,000 are potential customers for the e-EV200.

He said that a fleet operator looking to reduce CO2 emissions could replace his entire fleet with more efficient diesels -- or switch a portion of the fleet to EVs to accomplish the same goal.

Another factor that will effect the overall market is that automakers in Europe need to reduce the average CO2 emissions from their vans to 149 grams per kilometer by 2020 from 173g/km now.

Small volume

Forecasters are not bullish on the e-NV200. IHS Automotive expects Nissan's plant in Barcelona, Spain, which is the van's sole production site, to make 1,200 units of the EV van next year for global distribution. Volume is expected to rise to 2,742 in 2020, according to IHS.

Nissan will also offer the e-NV200 in Japan, but IHS expects most of the van's initial volume to be sold in Europe.

“The demand will be primarily driven by the changing legislation within the cities with upcoming low-emission zones and restrictions on fuel choice," Pavan Potluri, a senior powertrain analyst at IHS, said in an e-mail. "The biggest proportion of demand will be from taxis and commercial delivery fleets. They are already starting to appear in significant numbers in cities such as Amsterdam, with trials set to begin in other European and Japanese cities as well.”

Cost comparison

In Germany, the entry e-NV200 with sales tax and including the purchase of the battery costs 29,819 euros. By comparison, the after-tax price of the entry NV200 diesel is about 18,390 euros and the entry gasoline variant is 16,480 euros with tax included.

Customers also have the option of leasing the battery for as little as 87 euros a month with tax. That drops the German starting price of the e-NV200 to 23,919 euros.

Nissan says that most private customers will pick the Evalia variant, which caters to the needs of minivan buyers.

The German starting price for the battery-powered Evalia, with tax and purchase of the battery, is 36,766 euros, compared with 21,490 euros for the diesel Evalia and 19,700 for the gasoline-powered variant.

The basics
Launch date: June (Italy, Portugal, Spain, UK); July (Austria, Germany, Switzerland); September (Nordic countries); October (Japan)
Base price: 29,819 euros (with sales tax and purchase of battery); 23,919 euros (with tax and monthly rental of battery)
Where built: Barcelona, Spain
Production forecast 1,200 in 2015 rising to 2,742 in 2020 (IHS Automotive)
Main rivals VW Caddy, Peugeot Partner, Citroen Berlingo, Renault Kangoo (fleets); Renault Scenic, VW Touran, Ford C-Max, Citroen C4 Picasso (private customers)
Platform: X12K (includes front suspension from Nissan Leaf, rear axle from NV200 and a specially develop center structure to accommodate the battery)
Range: 170km
Top speed: 120kph
Charging time: 10 hours plugged into conventional wall socket; 30 minutes to fill battery to 80% using quick charger

You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at dbolduc@crain.com.

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