On Wednesday, July 15, 2020, in Yokohama, Japan, the first big EV news from Nissan in about 10 years was shared with the world. Am I over the top with this statement? Probably, but I have forgotten how many years we have waited for this companion to the Nissan Leaf. It appeared as the concept IMx in 2017, then more polished and realistic in 2019 as the Ariya, which was closer to a prototype. Now we see a nearly finished product (depending on homologation and such fine-tuning), one that is promised to reach the market in 2021.
With some companies, this history would be enough to say: “wait and see.” But Nissan did actually pioneer a mass-market EV. No reason it will not try to fulfill this promise. The current market and financial health of Nissan and the Alliance are the biggest reason to be a bit cautious.
Looking at the specs, my first question was, what are the outside and inside dimensions of this new vehicle. I’m just kidding. I never measure a vehicle. I just compare them when walking past them. Those sizes in inches or mm are Chinese to me. However, note that while every EV is “specially designed,” only those designs that started from a nearly blank sheet of paper are more special than others, having inside dimensions a segment larger than their outside dimensions.
A first description of the Ariya is already published on CleanTechnica under the title “The Nissan Ariya Has Answers.” Also check out the Nissan Ariya U.S. Spec Sheet for more details. I will now dive into the context of the vehicle and how it fits in a bit more.
Volkswagen is touting the ID.4 as a Golf on the outside and a Passat on the inside. Nissan made the same claim. Outside a C-segment, but a D-segment on the inside. Translation: it has the outside of a Nissan Rogue and the inside of a Murano.
This is not an “I don’t know what car I am building; the future is so uncertain!” design. This shows that at least a part of Nissan and the Alliance realizes that there is room for dedicated electric vehicles in the future. I know some employees did read my Osborne article. Some people in these companies certainly know where we are headed.
There is a stark contrast with general management, which see this as the first of 10 new models in the next 20 months — most of them with a far more exciting and loud “Vroom, Vroooom.” But the employees can be forgiven for that. As I wrote before, general management tends to live in a well isolated echo chamber.
This is the first Alliance BEV using the CMF-EV toolkit. The first rumors about it are perhaps 5–6 years old. It is like the VW MEB platform, dedicated for battery electric vehicles. The other electric platform currently in production is the PSA CMP (Multi-Energy), which can be used for all powertrains. Audi and Porsche are developing a platform for high-end vehicles based on the Porsche experience designing the Taycan. Other legacy OEM are just starting to realize they need a platform, not just an old converted ICE car.
The advantage of a dedicated EV platform is the lack of compromises for other powertrains. The Nissan designers of the car called the skateboard a magical carpet. It had the wheels further out on the corners, and a thin, flat bottom on which they could place the hood, trunk, A, B, and C pillars, depending on where it made most sense for the design. The flat bottom allowed for a lower body (less air resistance) on the outside and more headroom on the inside. These are just some of the many opportunities the magical carpet offered the Nissan designers.
Nissan and the Alliance should have had this platform ready last year, with the first products for the three members hitting the European market in Q1. But it is easy for me, the Monday Morning Quarterback, to say how the game should be played at the 19th hole. (We’re mixing sports metaphors here, but so be it.) I think Nissan and Renault got burned when EV sales disappointed in 2014 and 2015.
They used a bit of Tony Seba’s logic on sales numbers that they then thought could grow to 250,000 Leafs/year in the USA and half a million for the Alliance worldwide around 2015. It did not work out as expected. There were more variables at play than included in their forecast. Careful to not hit the same stone twice, they worked on the new platform using a very safe timeline. The first model was to come a full year later than the competing Volkswagen Group and PSA models.
The Ariya starts production and sales in Japan, a market that has turned its back on EVs. Japan sales are expected in summer 2021 around the time of the Hydrogen Summer Olympics. That is followed by deliveries to the USA later in the same year, a market that is dominated by Tesla while dealers are mostly “very reluctant” to sell EVs. The hottest market is Europe, and the biggest market is China. When exactly the Ariya will be introduced into those markets is yet to be announced. I see a repeat of the disastrous introduction of the 40 kWh Leaf in 2017 and the Leaf e+ in 2019 looming. Those introductions started in Japan with a short-lived spike in sales, followed by the USA, where the new model was largely ignored. The hot European market was served too little too late.
Hopefully Renault and Mitsubishi can resist the urge to design their own C-segment electric SUV. They should launch clones shortly after the Ariya comes to market. Nissan did its homework and it will be very hard for its Alliance partners to beat this design. Look at the Ariya’s European Specs Page for more details.
Renault is the champion of the hatchback design for the B-segment and C-segment, and Mitsubishi can show its design chops with a fully electric successor for the Outlander. Cloning those designs, the Alliance partners can create a market presence like PSA (Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel/Vauxhall) and Volkswagen Group (VW, Skoda, Seat, Audi) have done. As long as they are not too proud to be pragmatic and to show that they understand that together they stand, but divided they fall.
Nissan and the Alliance have a few strong points to compete with Volkswagen and PSA. The platform has the e-4ORCE 4-wheel drive system developed for its high-end sports car. It has larger batteries than the competition from Volkswagen and PSA in the B-segment and C-segment. Its ProPILOT ADAS system is probably second to none. Testing needs to decide what the differences are between it and the Tesla system (any volunteers?), but the ADAS systems of others are likely not in the same class. They have to be in different classes, of course, as all are “Best in Class” according to their makers.
About the competition, there is the 700 pound gorilla (Tesla Model Y) facing the large bull (VW ID.4) while small fish (MG ZS EV, Audi Q4 e-tron, BMW iX3, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Kia Niro EV, Hyundai Kona EV, Mazda MX-30, Mercedes-Benz EQA, Skoda Enyac, and Volvo XC40, to name a few) circle the fight. Where the Nissan Ariya will fit into this world is an open question. With this kind of competition, it would have been great to enter the market ahead of the crowd.
As with all press releases, the list of bells and whistles is too long to copy. Feel free to read the exciting marketing language of Nissan’s top ghost writers in the original publication.
Don't want to miss a cleantech story? Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.