Nissan seeks top spot in EV development

Japanese automaker expects to sell 1.5 million zero-emission cars by 2017

TOKYO—Nissan Motor Co. is aiming to be the world’s top green car maker, targeting sales of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles by 2017 with French partner Renault SA.

The maker of the Leaf electric car has announced its six-year strategy, planning a plug-in hybrid by March 2017 and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent per vehicle compared with 2005 levels.

Japan-based Nissan is also aiming to improve the fuel efficiency of its vehicles by 35 per cent.

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn says being ecological can deliver a competitive edge by allowing the automaker to stand out as good corporate citizen.

“More consumers are demanding products in line with their values, including cars and trucks with a lower carbon footprint,” he says. “At the same time, we are using technology to make our factories greener and more efficient.”

Ghosn says Nissan is working on a fuel cell, another kind of zero-emissions vehicle and environmental technologies such as clean diesels.

Growth in emerging markets like Brazil, India and Russia are expected to overtake Japan in auto demand, which has already fallen behind China, the world’s largest auto market.

Although electric cars remain a niche market thus far, Nissan has sold about 16,600 Leaf cars around the world since they debuted in December 2010.

But competition in electric vehicles has intensified as others, such as Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp., enter the sector.

Toyota already offers plug-in hybrid cars, which run partly as EVs but switch to become regular hybrids with gas engines when they run out of electric charge.