This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

May 14, 2008

Nissan to Sell an Electric Vehicle in the United States in 2010

Nissan Motor Company, Ltd., announced on May 13 that it plans to introduce an all-electric vehicle in the United States and Japan in 2010. The vehicle will then be mass-marketed to consumers throughout the world in 2012. The company's terse announcement was buried in the press release for its first-quarter financial results, but it marks the first announced plans by a major automaker to mass-market an all-electric vehicle. Currently, the electric vehicle market is being led by relatively small startup companies, such as Zap, Tesla Motors, and Aptera. See the Nissan press release.

While Nissan is going all-electric, General Motors Corporation (GM) is developing a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt, but the company is also pursuing other fuel-saving measures. In early May, GM allowed journalists to drive its "HCCI-enabled" Saturn Aura, which can run its engine using a traditional spark ignition or using "homogenous charge compression ignition" (HCCI) for fuel savings. HCCI involves igniting a gasoline-air mixture using compression, as in a diesel engine, rather than a spark. The technology burns the fuel evenly throughout the combustion chamber, allowing the engine to run at a lower temperature and resulting in a 15% increase in fuel economy. But the technology is difficult to control, so the Aura only uses HCCI at low speeds. GM introduced the HCCI-enabled Aura last year, but the company is now emphasizing its ability to employ HCCI at idle, which is particularly difficult. GM also announced plans to deploy its V-8 Duramax turbo-diesel engine in its 2010 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. The advanced diesel engine will meet emissions standards in all 50 states while cutting fuel consumption by 25%. Precise combustion controls also allow it to run quieter than today's diesel engines. See the GM press releases on the HCCI and diesel engines and the article from the EERE Network News on last year's HCCI announcement.

Meanwhile, Ford Motor Company is achieving greater fuel economy through the use of more efficient six-speed automatic transmissions. The company announced on May 7 that it will double the number of six-speed transmissions in its cars and trucks sold in North America by the end of next year. Compared to four- and five-speed transmissions, the advanced six-speed transmissions cut fuel consumption by as much as 6%. A new version of the six-speed transmission will debut in the 2009 Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner, and Mazda Tribute sport utility vehicles, which go on sale this fall, and two other vehicles will follow next year. The transmissions will be built at Ford's Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, doubling the production at that plant. By the end of 2012, 98% of the automatic transmissions that Ford sells in North America will be six-speed transmissions. See the Ford press release.