NEWPORT BEACH, California, USA -- Blowing off media speculation that its bold ambitions for electric vehicles might have cooled, Nissan Motor Co. says it will expand its global EV product line to five models.
Until now, Nissan has said it will build only three electric models: the Nissan Leaf, a luxury Infiniti sedan version of the Leaf and an electric version of its recently launched compact cargo van, the NV200.
The company has not announced what additional models it is planning and has not specified a timetable. But it indicates Nissan is taking a long-term view of the slow-growing EV market.
"We haven't announced what models they will be, but we have plans for five," Carla Bailo, senior vice president for r&d at Nissan Americas, told reporters here at a product preview. "The others will come in due time."
Bailo said future Nissan-brand EVs will use inductive charging -- an emerging advanced technology for recharging the batteries of electric cars wirelessly. Inductive chargers enable an EV owner to park on top of a charging mat to recharge a battery without hooking up a connector.
"Once that technology is ready, we will use it across our brands," she said after her presentation.
Previously, Nissan had said inductive charging was critical to differentiate the luxury EV planned for the Infiniti brand.
Production of the cargo van begins later this year in Europe, initially for the European market. But this spring, Infiniti President Johan de Nysschen said the Infiniti EV will be delayed. Infiniti said it wanted to wait for improvements in inductive charging technology.
That means that only the Leaf has made it to market so far, after more than three years of promoting the idea of EVs. The company spent $1.8 billion to move U.S. production of that model to Smyrna, Tennessee, and to construct a lithium ion battery module plant there. That factory, which began production in January, gives Nissan the capacity to build up to 150,000 Leafs a year and 200,000 batteries.
Sales of the car in the United States have more than tripled since last year, when it was still being imported. Through July, Nissan dealers sold 11,703 Leafs, up from 3,543 in the first seven months of 2012.