Nissan-Renault has scaled back its electric car ambitions, pushing its 1.5m global goals for worldwide EV sales to 2020 after conceding that its original 2016 target was over-ambitious. A shortage of infrastructure development to support electric vehicles is one of the key factors hamstringing their success, CEO Carlos Ghosn suggested this week, though argued that the increasing number of rivals entering the eco-friendly segment was an indication that a change was close at hand.
"We have to admit that the progress of sales has been slower than we thought it would be but the figures are continuing to grow" Ghosn admitted to AFP while on a visit to the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. There, Renault-Nissan is providing a fleet of Nissan's Leaf EV for government use.
In fact, Bhutan is a perfect example of the sort of infrastructure evolution that electric vehicles demand, Ghosn suggested. The country primary source of power is hydroelectrically generated, with more created than its own requirements demand; on the flip-side, it imports gasoline and diesel for traditionally-powered cars.
That's the sort of big-scale thinking that's required if EVs are to be a success, the Nissan-Renault chief points out. "All of it is very closely linked on the development of infrastructures," he says, "but we are seeing more and more competitors coming onto the scene which is always a tell-tale sign."
While user-adoption may be slower than the car alliance had hoped, that hasn't stopped R&D efforts at each from pushing the envelope in more advanced vehicles. Renault recently showed off its interpretation of near-market-ready autonomous cars, the Renault NEXT TWO, which would limit self-driving technology to specific parts of cities cleared of pedestrians and cyclists.
Meanwhile, Nissan's self-driving Leaf EV - which we tested out last year - could be on the market by 2020, the company has previously suggested. It uses relatively affordable sensors already included for existing Leaf safety features, to track other road users and potential hazards.