The automotive industry across the globe is witnessing a major shift driven by technological innovations. OEMs, suppliers and other stakeholders are focussing on megatrends such as connected, autonomous, shared and electric to ensure their business is well aligned with the future of mobility
In India, many OEMs have begun offering solutions that are in line with these global megatrends. To gather more perspectives on the future of mobility from an Indian context, Auto Tech Review caught up with Bruno Grippay, Regional Director – Connected Cars and Intelligent Mobility, Nissan Africa-Middle East-India.
ELECTRIFICATION & HYBRIDISATION
When it comes to India, electric vehicles (EVs) are a hot topic. While the government has been introducing mandates for EVs, it has a rather straightjacketed opinion on hybrid vehicles, which many OEMs feel is the obvious stepping stone towards EVs. However, Nissan Motor India appreciates the government’s commitment towards electrification and focus on cleaner forms of mobility. As per Grippay, the sops such as GST and tax exemptions that were previously rolled out will have a positive impact and encourage customers to consider buying EVs in the future.
India has already embarked on the electrification journey, but it still has a few hurdles to cross. Achieving the desired momentum will require concrete policies for setting up EV charging infrastructure across the country, ensuring availability of battery components, and consumer-friendly prices, Grippay said. Further, the availability of charging infrastructure will continue to vary in the near future and there would be a space for all kinds of zero-emission technologies.
In order to cater to markets such as India, Nissan introduced the e-POWER technology in 2016. e-POWER borrows from the EV technologies that were perfected in the Nissan Leaf, a pure EV that has sold more than 400,000 units till date. The e-POWER technology features a small gasoline engine that charges a high-output battery, whenever necessary. This eliminates the need for an external charger while offering the same high-output performance.
At present, the e-Power technology is featured on the Nissan Note. The system enables the user to reap all the benefits of an EV without having to worry about charging the battery. As per Grippay, the e-POWER system is the perfect bridge between internal combustion engine (ICE) technologies and pure EVs. This technology is better than traditional hybrid models because it gives the user the EV driving feeling (acceleration, quietness, smoothness, etc.) without bothering about range anxiety, he said.
Globally the kWh cost of batteries has also been falling considerably. While batteries and charging are in nascent stages, these technologies have been evolving to offer optimised automotive solutions. At present, lithium and cobalt account for a major part of the battery cost. The automotive industry is working out ways to overcome this problem and improve the efficiency of batteries to lower the cost. Nissan employs lithium ion batteries in its vehicles.
Grippay observed that improvements in the infrastructure in a market bring more economies of scale and reduction in the cost of battery. For India, he stated that there is significant scope to develop EVs before they become a viable alternative to IC engines.
In India, the establishment of a robust charging infrastructure is expected to take more time. There is a line of thought that not many EV charging infrastructure firms will venture in far-flung areas unless there are adequate volumes to substantiate business activities. The e-POWER system features full electric-motor drive, which effectively means that the wheels are driven solely by the electric motor. The power from a high-output battery is delivered to the e-POWER’s compact powertrain comprising a gasoline engine, power generator, inverter, and a motor. And unlike a full EV, the power source originates from the engine and not just the battery.
Nissan is developing products that will cater to different customer needs. The Nissan Note e-POWER is one such product. Grippay claimed that this technology showcases that the lack of charging infrastructure is not a hindrance. Further, far-flung charging stations are not a problem when you can charge the battery with a gasoline engine, he noted.
Globally, connected technologies are rapidly evolving and these are gradually enhancing user experiences within automobiles. Even in India, the dawn of connected technologies for two and four-wheelers has begun with OEMs offering competitive solutions that are democratised for mass application. A connected ecosystem of drivers, cars, and communities is the key to a cleaner and safer world.
Globally, Nissan is defining what the roads of the future will look like, from autonomous cars to traffic management systems to mobility services. In India, solutions such as the NissanConnect, which according to Grippay, embodies the best of Nissan’s innovative spirit, has been designed to enhance the overall driving experience. It enables better comfort, convenience, control and safety through technologies that bring people closer. Further, it offers an effortless driving experience that integrates seamlessly with the connected lifestyle of our customers, while ensuring data security.
With the emergence of Internet of Things (IoT), the automotive industry is shifting gears. This is leading to its most significant innovation phase and ushering in new opportunities. OEMs and start-ups are taking small steps toward greater connectivity. Nissan, with its vision of Intelligent Mobility, has been one of the pioneers of connectivity. The company is ensuring cars become more responsive partners, provide security and convenience to their owners.
Nissan’s research team has already made major strides in related fields. For instance, Nissan has created a vision to make EVs even more useful to customers by introducing new and convenient ways to utilise their batteries’ ability to store & share energy. Under the plan, called Nissan Energy, owners of Nissan EVs are able to easily connect their cars with energy systems to charge their batteries, power homes and businesses or feed energy back to power grids. The company is also developing new ways to reuse electric car batteries.
In 2018, Nissan unveiled the Brain-to-Vehicle (B2V) technology that promises to speed up reaction times for drivers and ensure safer driving. This breakthrough by Nissan is the result of research on using the brain decoding technology to predict a driver’s actions and detect discomfort. The company has been able to demonstrate the V2X technology with its Nissan Leaf at various events in India.
Electrification is a key pillar for Nissan – it underlines the company’s vision of ‘Intelligent Mobility’ that looks to transform the way cars are driven, powered and integrated into society. The company is focussed on bringing its EV and e-Power technologies to India, and at present is conducting pilot testing for the Leaf to assess the actual range, in terms of kilometres in real-life situations. Nissan is looking to offer Indian customers the most advanced EV technologies with the new Leaf and premium equipment such as the e-Pedal.
Further, looking at the government’s initiatives to promote EVs in India, and the increasing desire among consumers for cleaner and efficient mobility, Nissan is convinced about the scope of growth in EVs. Once infrastructure improves, there will be significant economies of scale and reduction in battery cost, leading to further acceptability of electrified mobility in the country.
TEXT: Joshua David Luther