The Renault/Nissan Alliance – What Alliance?

As you may know, Nissan and Renault form an official alliance with each owning shares in the other. This alliance was formed in 1999 and they have been sharing some technology ever since. With the advent of electric vehicles (EVs) and the development of complex and expensive technologies such as battery and charging tech you would imagine that Nissan and Renault would have researched this new product area and developed a combined and joint strategy to ensure that they are the leading force in the marketplace.

With the launch of the first purpose-built 100% family electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf, things were looking good. Nissan seemed to have taken a leap over all its competition and for a while it was looking like Nissan would be the only name in this area for a while. Things were looking even better with the announcement of the Renault ZE program: the Fluence Z.E. , ZoE, Twizy and Kangoo Van Z.E. However, now that more details of the Renault ZE offerings have emerged I am now truly shocked and very disappointed.

It seems that there is little “alliance” between Nissan and Renault when it comes to electric vehicles. Nissan seems to favour owners buying the vehicle batteries outright while Renault prefer leasing. Nissan prefer DC fast charging using the CHAdeMO standard while Renault prefer AC 3-phase or battery swap. Not only that but it seems that Renault are even confused themselves because they intend to use the J1772 AC standard used by Nissan in the first year of the Fluence Z.E. followed by the Mennekes 3-phase AC standard for subsequent years. To be honest it is a real dogs dinner.

Since one of the main barriers to take up of EVs is the lack of charging infrastructure how can Nissan and Renault going their own separate ways help the situation? Not only will it severely confuse the general public (hell! it is confusing me!) but it will severely dilute the importance of any and all of these standards confusing the market so much that there will be no clear direction for EV charging. Without that clear direction and some firm standards, accepted by the industry as a whole, how will anyone have any confidence investing in charging infrastructure. I fear that this confusion may result in only a small fraction of the needed infrastructure being installed thereby stalling any likelihood of there being any serious early uptake of EVs.

In short, this could spell the end to the hopes of there being a viable and usable national fast charging infrastructure in the UK for some time to come.

Had Nissan and Renault committed to a combined approach, and committed to a proper fast charging solution for all their EV models, then manufacturers, government, local authorities and private enterprise would have been given a clear message: Nissan and Renault are the leaders, they intend to stay the leaders and they are dictating the way ahead. It would have been clear, decisive and shown true leadership for everyone. Instead what have they done? They have not only indicated that they have no idea what charging infrastructure EVs should use but even within a single model line they are confused as to which way to go.

I have a Nissan Leaf and I am now concerned that I have put my faith into Nissan way too early. For me at least, the jury is now well and truly out as to which charging technology will prevail and which motor manufacturer will show that leadership so desperately needed in the field. Are Nissan now losing their leadership position?

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