BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said Wednesday
his company is working hard to develop the next generation of
smaller, lighter auto batteries _ a technology that holds promise
for electric cars as well as for hybrids.
He also said Nissan and its French partner Renault SA are moving
ahead with studies on a US$3,000 car for the Indian market.
As demand for ``green'' vehicles grows, automakers are racing to
develop viable lithium ion batteries, which are common in gadgets
such as laptops and cellphones but have yet to be fully adapted to
the more rigorous demands of a car engine.
Nissan, which has fallen behind rivals such as Toyota and Honda
in hybrid vehicles, recently opened a new tech centre in Japan
dedicated to developing environmentally friendly technologies.
Nissan Motor Co. last year introduced a hybrid vehicle with
nickel-metal hydride batteries, but licenses the technology from
Ghosn believes that Nissan's investment in green technologies
will help it narrow the gap or even put it ahead of competitors down
``We continue on the lithium ion battery. We think for us it's a
competitive advantage,'' he told reporters during a press conference
in Bangkok. ``We have a lot of technology is this area, and we think
this is going to be very helpful, not only for hybrids but also for
While consumer interest has surged in gas-and-electric hybrid
cars due to higher fuel prices and global warming, the
Brazilian-born Ghosn said Nissan was serious about going one step
further and introducing vehicles powered only by electricity.
``If you have an efficient battery for a hybrid, why not go all
the way and go for electric cars?'' he said. ``It has zero emissions
Electric cars have failed to catch on because they are expensive,
difficult to recharge and travel limited distances. Still, several
auto companies are trying to develop them for the mass market.
Ghosn said Nissan is negotiating a deal to put a fleet of
electric cars in the Japanese market in co-operation with local
governments, which would need to provide necessary infrastructure
such as charging stations. He declined to give a timeframe or
specific number, saying only ``hundreds.''
He stressed that Nissan was investing in various kinds of green
technologies, not just hybrids, which has a key focus for Toyota.
``We said from the beginning, we need to develop all the
technologies,'' he said. ``We can't afford to squeeze any one of
them: hybrid, fuel cell, electric, diesel, biofuel. Because we still
don't know how the market will react.''
Ghosn, who is also chief executive of Renault, said last week
that Nissan decided to explore the viability of a US$3,000 car after
an Indian rival said it was coming out with one. Tata Motors Ltd.
has announced that it plans to make a 100,000-rupee (US$2,500) car
``Frankly, that's something that challenges us,'' Ghosn said
Wednesday. ``These people are serious, we take them seriously.''
Such an ultra-cheap car ``could have a big potential _ bigger
than India,'' he said.
Renault began selling its popular Logan in India earlier this
year through a joint venture with local automaker Mahindra &
Mahindra, but it's priced in a range of 428,000 rupees to 547,000
rupees ($9,700 to $12,400).
Ghosn said Nissan and Renault are contacting suppliers in India
and analyzing all aspects of producing the less expensive car.
Ghosn also said Mahindra & Mahindra would most likely be its
local partner for such a car, although an agreement has not been
Nissan formed an alliance with Renault in 1999. Renault owns a 44
per cent stake in Nissan, which in turn holds 15 per cent of the