Nissan and San Diego Gas & Electric's Electric Car Program Shows Promise



Nissan Motor Company announced on Monday that it has partnered with San Diego Gas & Electric to develop an infrastructure that would create charging stations for electric car owners, maybe as early as 2010. The announcement shows promise but it raises some significant questions.Both Toyota and Honda are known for their fuel efficient vehicles, especially Toyota's Prius model. Nissan, in an effort to reach a market untapped by its Japanese rivals, is going after the next frontier in efficient cars: electric cars. According to Reuters:

Under the latest tie-up, Nissan and San Diego Gas & Electric will develop plans to develop a charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and work to implement and maintain a battery charging network, the automaker said.

Nissan plans to launch zero emission vehicles powered by lithium-ion battery packs in the United States in 2010 and market the vehicles globally two years after the U.S. launch.

The automaker has said the cruising range for its first generation of electric cars could be 100 miles, but the company would look to boost that to near 200 miles by the second generation of the battery pack.

While the idea of electric cars roaming our streets is an attractive one, especially cars that are efficient enough to actually sell back unused energy into the grid, these Nissan cars do not appear to have all the answers to our twin foes: climate change and fossil fuel dependence. They are, however, a good start.

According to the their web site, Nissan's partner, San Diego Gas & Electric, has deceased their use of coal to 12 percent in 2007, down from 29 percent in 2006. Their energy mix comes from a variety of sources, but they tout their use of natural gas as a means to fighting climate change. It's true that natural gas emits about 1/2 of the emissions as coal, but solar and wind emit zero emissions. SDGE is solid on this front. It was ranked No. 4 among U.S. utilities for installed solar power.

But to be a truly zero emissions vehicle, Nissan's electric car would need to be charged by renewable resources, not by coal and natural gas. Nissan also needs to increase the car's limited range, which almost assures that most families will need a second vehicle for longer trips.

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