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The future of transportation and the Nissan Leaf - on the streets of Takamatsu in Kagawa, Japan's smallest prefecture.

This is a continuation of our last NTM report article set in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture. After traveling on the Takamatsu-Kotohira Electric Railroad (Kotoden), the duo of Mr. Manabe and...

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It is not true that "big country = unfit for EVs"

Manabe: The proportion of customers who have pre-ordered the Nissan Leaf is comparatively high in Takamatsu. It might be because environmental consciousness is high, or because a large number of people just like new things. Actually, I think both are true. Quite a few corporate customers have ordered because of the low running costs, and there are also a surprisingly large number of individual customers.

Doi: I think the Nissan Leaf is a very affordable car for corporations. It's the perfect company vehicle for industries that don't have a need to travel very large distances and, because they are always parked at night, can easily be charged. The Nissan Leaf, depending on the circumstances, can travel 200km on a full charge* which makes it ideal for the compactness of Takamatsu. The driving range of EVs is often pointed out as a problem but, in reality, most people rarely have the chance to drive 200km per day in their everyday lives. The average usage of an electric vehicle car-share in Takamatsu would probably be about 40km, If that's the case, that would mean you would only need to charge 40km worth with each charge.
(*estimated value in JC08 mode)

Manabe: How long would 40kms worth take to charge?

Doi: With normal charging it takes approximately 8 hours in order to drive 200km so, dividing simply, it would take just less than 2 hours. This time is shortened even more with the use of high-speed charging and I feel the customers will likely not notice an inconvenience with EVs.

Manabe: So are EVs not suited for large countries such as America?

Doi: Though the country may be large, it's not the case that everywhere is far apart. Even in America regional cities aren't that large. The other day in China I asked, "Because this is such a large country, it must be hard to use EVs, right?" and was told, "That's not so. Because China is too big we don't use cars to travel from city to city." Even in large countries, EVs are perfect for traveling within a city while travel from city to city can be done by public transportation or possibly in the future using fuel cell equipped transport. So, it would seem "big country = unfit for EVs" is not necessarily the case. Because, in the end, the customer will pick the most convenient vehicle for them.

A place to experience the merit of EVs

Doi: A moment ago you mentioned liking new things and, without a doubt, EVs have new merits. Because they don't make a sound, you're likely to be be surprised when riding in one. Even driving around the same places that you do now, you're bound to see the scenery in a completely different way. It feels like the idea of a peaceful city with quiet cars fits with the current times.

Manabe: This was the case with the idling stop technology of the March as well, its quietness is a real merit. I think in an EV, you could hear the sound of the waves or the wind as you drive alongside the ocean. Back when minivans and SUVs became fashionable, they were popular because the high driving position was seen as a merit. EVs also have their own unique merits. The important thing is that it matches with the current mood of today. Because customers can experience a completely different sensation from gasoline vehicles, if we can expand the opportunities to ride in EVs, I believe that the number of customers who will consider buying one will increase. Providing the opportunity to experience EVs in the occasional taxi ride, rental car, or car-share is important.

Doi: I would like to take that opportunity to focus on rental cars. For example, I believe that if customers use an EV for a few days at a tourist spot they will think, "Hey, this is nice." This is because, when traveling at a tourist spot, people don't worry too much about how far they are traveling. Also, rather than focusing on the environment, I think the motivation of "since we're on vacation, let's try a car that's a little different" is just fine.

Manabe: I think convenience stores are perfect for car-sharing locations because there is always at least one in every town. Imagine there is always one Nissan Leaf at the convenience store, you could reserve it on your cellphone and then cycle to pick it up. In the past we've wanted to make it possible to charge EVs at convenience stores but, because a trip to the store lasts at most 10 minutes, they are not suitable charging station locations. For charging stations, large shopping centers where a longer time will be spent are ideal.