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Interview: Olivier Paturet, General Manager, Zero Emission Strategy, Nissan Europe

Automotive World talks to the General Manager of Nissan Europe's Zero Emission Strategy

Olivier Paturet is the General Manager for Zero Emission Strategy at Nissan Europe. His position involves considering everything that is required before the arrival of EVs, such as charging infrastructure, the availability of government incentives, and in general, the ecosystem around the EV. Paturet is speaking at Automotive World’s Automotive Megatrends Europe 2014 conference, which takes place in Brussels on 10 and 11 September. Paturet will speak in Stream 1: Powertrain Innovation, on 11 September: Passenger Car. He recently spoke to Automotive World about the future of the electric vehicle, and Nissan’s future plans for zero emission vehicles.

Olivier Paturet, General Manager – Zero Emissions Business Unit, Nissan

Can you please outline the zero emission vehicle projects on which Nissan is currently working? 

We have a number of strategic partnerships co-funded by the European Union. This includes a number of FP7 projects [the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development in Europe, with a budget of over €50bn], including Green eMotion, a European Commission-led EV promotion initiative. Green eMotion looks at the success factors for the introduction of EV passenger cars, and there is a freight vehicle equivalent too. Nissan is a project leader on an AT&T Rapid Charging Network project, which is looking to deploy multi-standard EV charging infrastructure in the UK.

What is the current status of Nissan’s fuel cell vehicle programme?

We are a member of a number of initiatives across Europe on FCVs, and we’ve said many times that we will be introducing fuel cells in much the same way that we did with our battery EV. That will happen when we strike the balance between cost and performance for mainstream introduction. We have said we will enter the market around 2017.

The Leaf has been successful, but like other EVs, it hasn’t sold as well as hybrid vehicles. Do you think EVs will always be a niche product?

The view at Nissan is that zero emission EVs, or BEVs will probably represent about 10% of the industry by 2020. While it’s a long way from making 50% or 70% of the market, whether you want to qualify 10% as niche is another matter. In certain instances however, the 10% barrier could be met and surpassed for the urban environment.

What has feedback from Leaf owners been like?

We have had absolutely ecstatic feedback. I think we are reaching around a 93% satisfaction level. In our world, that’s a very high level of customer satisfaction.

As EVs generally have a higher selling price that gasoline cars, fewer need to be sold for the same revenue

EV sales are rising, but they have still remained relatively low. Why do you think this is?

The need for a viable ecosystem was underestimated at the beginning. There was the idea that everything would come into place quickly, but in reality it has taken longer than expected to develop the necessary charging infrastructure, and the battery EV technology.

How important are government incentives to growing EV sales?

Government incentives are essential. There needs to be a push from public office to incentivise the arrival of EVs, but it needs to be combined with a number of non-financial or direct adoption incentives from customers. In Norway, there is a great balance between the two: for top down, there’s a very good level of incentives; and from the bottom up, there’s been a very early adoption of electric vehicles.

Is a move to electrification inevitable?

Yes, the progress is irreversible for a number of reasons. Electrification makes the best use of the existing infrastructure in the city environment. Secondly, there is a strong push in European cities to meet air quality targets. Thirdly, the integration of energy policies and transport policies sets a clear agenda for an inevitable transition to electrification.

Does it matter whether the electricity used to power EVs comes from a clean source?

Our view is that the integration between energy policies and eMobility is coming at the right time. A 20% share of renewable energy in the energy sector needs to be coordinated, and eMobility is a perfect way of making use of renewable energy sources. For example, Denmark has excess power capacity and BEVs are an ideal way of avoiding losing it.

ChargePoint Station

Do you think EV charging needs to be standardised across different OEMs?

I don’t think it’s a case of one winning over the other. The customer must understand that it is easy to recharge, whatever EV they have. That’s why we created the Rapid Charging Network project in the UK, which is looking at deploying multi-standard charging infrastructure.

Where do you think are the best places for charging points?

They need to be highly visible. The general public needs to see that things have changed, and it is possible to recharge an EV in a location that a driver visits every day. The second stage is extending range and having charge points on highways. When the combination of the two is available, the EV becomes a solution as a unique vehicle.

What developments do you expect in terms of EV charging?

Wireless charging is a possibility. However, to happen it would need to learn from the lessons of conductive charging. It needs to become cost effective, and must offer some kind of interoperability.

In which markets around the world do you see EVs being most successful?

Today, the leading markets are the US and Japan. In Europe, we have our big star, Norway. It is already above the 10% mark of industry share. China is taking very quick steps towards electric vehicles. It will be a combination of China, US, Japan and a few leading countries across Europe.

Rachael Hogg

Olivier Paturet will speak at Automotive World’s Automotive Megatrends Europe 2014 conference, which takes place in Brussels on 10 and 11 September. Paturet will speak in Stream 1: Powertrain Innovation, on 11 September: Passenger Car. To register for this event, please go to http://automotivemegatrendsusa.com/#tile_registration

For further details on this event, please contact the event manager, Amanda James:
amanda.james@automotiveworld.com / +44(0) 2921 287 115

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