CERAWeek: Nissan's electric car is coming

Although Nissan is cutting 20,000 jobs and expects to report a loss of nearly $3 billion next month, the Japanese automaker isn’t backing down on plans to roll out an all-electric car next year and mass-market it by 2012.
That’s the word today from Mark Perry, director of product planning for Nissan North America.
Nissan is grappling with fallout from the global recession like other automakers. It’s fourth-quarter sales fell 34 percent, and it sold nearly 19 percent fewer cars than in late 2007. But Perry was all about the electric car rollout today, which he said is the company’t top priority as a zero-emissions vehicle.
“We see electrification of the transportation sector as absolutely the end game,” Perry said during a panel discussion at the Cambridge Energy Research Associates conference. “You guys had better be ready. We’re coming.”
Nissan intends to seek a loan from the federal government to retrofit a Tennessee auto plant to produce electric cars and build a new plant to produce batteries.
But Perry acknowledged the age-old conundrum that has deflated previous efforts to roll out electric cars: enough market penetration to matter when it comes to reducing emissions.
He says Nissan wants 10 percent of its volume of vehicles sold to be electric cars by 2020. But he said such penetration depends on infrastructure to handle it. Previously, two charging networks were on the horizon to allow drivers to stop and recharge, but they weren’t interchangeable.
This round will be different, he insisted.
But the other hurdle is getting motorists to embrace the car. He said Nissan expects its market penetration across the country to look like a smile — corner up on the East Coast, dipping to the Gulf Coast, and back up on the West Coast.
“The center of the country is going to take us a little while,” Perry said