Nissan seeks to dominate electric vehicles with $18bn investment plan

Nissan has announced a ¥2tn ($17.7bn) vehicle electrification plan in a bid to “democratise” battery-powered cars and assert its dominance over incumbent global automakers and newcomers such as Tesla.

Delivering a long-term strategy it dubbed Nissan Ambition 2030, the Japanese carmaker stopped short of predicting an end to its production of internal combustion engine vehicles — an announcement that some analysts had speculated could be imminent.

But the company set itself an electric vehicle sales target of 75 per cent of its European sales by fiscal year 2026 and 40 per cent of its sales in the US by 2030.

Nissan’s plan includes the proposed introduction of 23 “electrified” vehicle models by 2030, 15 of them fully electric. The remainder would be hybrids or would fall under Nissan’s “e-power” designation of vehicles that are driven by a battery but recharged via a petrol engine.

Previously announced elements of the strategy included a $1.4bn investment in the UK that will help convert Nissan’s Sunderland operations into a hub for electric vehicle production.

Nissan chief executive Makoto Uchida said the plan arose from an end to the company’s woes of recent years, a renewed sense of profit stability and fundamental changes in the automotive market.

“Nissan has emerged from crisis and is ready to make a new start,” said Uchida.

Nissan shares fell 4.5 per cent on Monday, making it the day’s worst performer among Japan’s top three automakers. The company is also recovering from a scandal involving former boss Carlos Ghosn, which Uchida did not mention.

The carmaker’s ambitions also involve a bet on the success of its all-solid-state battery technology. ASSBs deliver greater range and power density — a measure of the amount of energy that can be discharged from a battery. Vehicle makers and investors approve of their lower costs, higher performance and greater safety, but ASSBs cannot yet be reliably delivered in a mass-market format.

As well as building a pilot factory for ASSB devices within the next three years, Nissan plans to offer the technology in a mass-market electric vehicle by the fiscal year ending in March 2029.

Other carmakers including Nissan’s powerful domestic rival Toyota are engaged in a hotly-contested race for a fully solid-state battery, a potentially transformational technology.

In the meantime, said Uchida, Nissan would continue to chip away at existing lithium-ion battery costs, which he forecast could be reduced by 65 per cent within the next eight years.

Nissan’s ambitions for electric vehicles have consistently outpaced those of its Japanese competitors, which have continued to target other technologies such as hydrogen and fuel cells.

Under Ghosn, Nissan pushed into mass-market electric vehicles a decade ago with the introduction of its first-generation Leaf model. US and European competitors including Volkswagen, Ford and General Motors have since developed electric vehicles with an eye on rapidly growing global demand.

But not all have translated those ambitions into clear climate commitments. At the UN COP26 summit in Glasgow this month, only 11 automakers signed a declaration committing to end fossil-fuelled vehicles by 2040. Nissan, along with Toyota, Honda and BMW were not signatories.

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