Nissan Leaf – Best Invention of 2009

The year 2009 is coming to an end and it is the time again for magazines and websites to come up with their lists of the best and worst of 2009.  Time Magazine is not lagging behind and has recently released its annual list of 50 Best Inventions of 2009.  This year green energy innovations have prominently featured in the top inventions of 2009.

Nissan Leaf is among Time’s list of 50 best inventions of 2009.  The Japanese automaker Nissan unveiled Nissan Leaf in August 2009 as the first new dedicated electric vehicle.  It may not be the world’s first electric car, but the Nissan Leaf is the first fully electric, zero emission vehicle built for mass production for the global market at an affordable price.  Nissan Leaf would not be available in the market until the fall of 2010, but that didn’t stop Time Magazine from calling it one of the best inventions of 2009.

Key characteristics of the Nisan Leaf include:

  1. Zero-emission electric power train
  2. Real-world range autonomy – 160km (100 miles)
  3. Distinctive design
  4. Affordable pricing
  5. Connected Mobility: Advanced intelligent transportation (IT) system

Nissan LEAF electric car is not a hybrid – it’s a zero-emission electric vehicle that is powered by a reusable lithium-ion battery.  It is no longer a concept car or test model – it is meant for mass production.  It is a 5 passenger electric car, with all the features you can expect from a standard family sedan.  It is a 100% electric car that uses no gasoline, and produces virtually no noise and emission.  No transmission, no engine oil, no timing belts to change and no emission. Nissan Leaf, makes a futuristic sound like that of flying cars in Blade Runner, when it is moving.  Nissan plans to produce 50,000 Leafs every year at its Oppama plant at Yokohama, Japan starting in the fall of 2010.

Nissan Leaf is designed with the common man in mind and not just celebrities.  The Leaf is expected to sell for between $35,000 and $45,000. The Nissan LEAF will shift the way we drive, power and think about cars..

Nissan LEAF has a top speed of up to 145 km/hr (90 mph) and it accelerates just like a normal V6 car. The LEAF can run for about 160 km (100 miles) per charge under normal driving conditions.  The lithium-ion battery that powers the LEAF has a lifespan of about 5 years.  You can charge battery on a 220V home charging unit in 4 to 8 hours.  And, it will take just about 26 minutes for charging it to 80% of its capacity at quick-charge stations.

Electric cars have been there for a long time, but Nissan is the first company which has come up with a production model of an electric vehicle.  Nissan therefore deserves the title of ‘inventor of electric cars’ if they can keep their promise of building and selling a million electric vehicles in the next.  Nissan Leaf has certainly made the future of green transportation looking brighter.

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Toyota unveils plug-in Prius

Earlier this December Toyota Motor Corp made official announcement about producing a test fleet of plug-in hybrid car Prius which uses lithium-on battery packs.  Now, the Japanese automaker Toyota has officially showcased the plug-in version of the latest Toyota Prius electric-gasoline hybrid vehicle along with its extended range of completely electric vehicle.

Plug-in technology facilitates charging of batteries in the hybrid from the mains in a fashion similar to the straight electric cars.  The major advantage of plug-in hybrid when compared with a standard hybrid is that it can it run in the electric-only mode for a longer time, and produces much lower tail-pipe emissions.

The Japanese car makerToyota plans to sell the plug-in hybrid Prius in Japan and other countries within 2 years.  Toyota Motor Corp has now officially started a program to manufacture and sell 650 plug-in hybrid Prius vehicles globally.  Japanese automaker will lease out 230 of its vehicles to government bodies like power companies and other government industries in Japan.  Out of Remaining stock, 150 units will be leased out to government agencies, research agencies, corporations and universities of America.  200 vehicles will go to Europe while France will receive 100 units especially for the City of Strasbourg.  Toyota is also considering other countries like Canada, New Zealand and Australia and few European countries to try out its test units.

toyota plug-in prius

The 5 seater Toyota Prius is available with lithium-ion battery packs replacing the usual nickel-metal hydride batteries which can help electric-motor vehicles to gain more mileage than usual thirteen miles.  One can easily charge batteries of plug-in Prius by connecting it to household electricity.

The fuel efficiency of Prius is 57 km/liter and plug-in hybrid Prius gives the range of about 24 km/liter using only electricity. To fully charge lithium-on batteries of Prius it takes about 1&1/2 hours using 200 volt socket whereas with 100 volt batteries it takes about 3 hours.

According to Toyota, this program is their 1st step i introducing plug-in hybrid concept to society at large.  This program allows Toyota with this unique opportunity to educate, inform, and also prepare their customers for the introduction of plug-in hybrid technology.  When vehicles built with this technology come to the market, customers would understand what to expect and whether this new technology would suit them.

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Toyota in Korea vs Hyundai in Japan

In the past year, Hyundai has improved its business a lot in the global automobile industry.   From the fourth quarter of last year to the third quarter of this year, Hyundai-Kia sold around 4.5 million cars worldwide, while Toyota sold 5.46 million units in the same period.  However, the Korean automaker Hyundai could not make an impression in the Japanese car market, even though it is operating there for the last 8 years.  On the other hand, the Japanese automaker Toyota is gaining ground in Korea by challenging Hyundai-Kia on their home turf.

Last week, Korean automaker Hyundai made an official announcement about its withdrawal from the Japan automobile market.  Hyundai has maintained a low-key profile in the Japanese market for last 8 years and it could not even achieve its target of 800 cars this October.  Even though Hyundai won’t sell new cars anymore in Japan, it continue servicing its customer base in Japan.  According to Hyundai, it is better to concentrate on more up-and-coming auto markets like China, USA and India than to make investment in struggling markets like Japan.

hyundai tokyo motor show

Hyundai’s 8 years of incompetence in Japanese auto market and awkward withdrawal from Japan is certainly disappointing.  Moreover, Toyota is fast becoming one of the popular brands of imported cars in Korea.  Toyota created impression on Korean buyers through their luxury sedans marketed under the Lexus brand.  And recently, Toyota has conquered mid-priced car market section in Korea, where Hyundai-Kia, SsangYong and other Korean car makers were dominating.  Toyota recently introduced 4 new models of hybrid version of Prius and the mid-sized car Camry in Korea and could sell over 5,000 cars of the recently-released vehicles in just three weeks.

Along with Toyota, other Japanese Automakers who are quiet popular amongst the Korean drivers are Nissan and Honda.  Last year Honda sold about 12,400 cars and leading the imported auto brands in Korea whereas combining sales of Nissan and Toyota last year in Korean market was over 21,000 cars and this year it is expected to be more than previous year.

Quitting passenger car sales in Japan looks a sensible move by Hyundai.  Convincing Japanese buyers to try Korean vehicles is quiet a challenging task.  Japanese buyers have different buying habits compared to other Asians.  Japanese car buyers that buy foreign vehicles mostly prefer European brands. Although Hyundai is giving up now, it can not afford to lose this opportunity as Japan is one of the largest automobile markets in Asia.  Auto industry watchers have expectation that the Korean automaker will reform and re-enter the Japanese auto market in next 2 or 3 years.   Hyundai simply needs to revise and improve its existing strategies, learn from their past mistakes, and when the time is right re-enter Japanese auto market with a strong marketing message that promises refinement, good quality and most importantly differentiation from Japanese domestic brands.

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