Nissan: Production of low-cost EV for Chinese market begins

Nissan has started production of the Leaf's Chinese sibling - the Nissan Sylphy Zero Emission. The Chinese market is currently the largest EV market in the world. During the first quarter of 2018, the number of EVs sold in China was similar to the that of EVs sold in Europe and the US combined. China's electric vehicles market is also growing exponentially: this summer, it experienced month-to-month growth of 77% and 64% in June and July respectively.  

Nissan is the first non-Chinese automaker to locally produce an EV specifically addressing the needs of the Chinese market. The Sylphy Zero Emission is now available to order through Dongfeng Nissan - production of the vehicle has just started and it will soon be rolling out of the local plant, where it is manufactured. The electric vehicle, which is not only produced, but also designed in China, is based on the best-selling Nissan Leaf. It is clearly adjusted to the preferences of the Chinese market, having adopted a sedan form, instead of the signature Leaf hatchback style.

According to Nissan's Press Statement, the new EV will have a range of 210 miles / 338km on full charge and will adopt the latest features of Nissan's flagship family series. Notably, it will feature "intelligent mobility technologies", such as a connectivity feature that allows remote controlling of the vehicle's audio and video from a mobile phone. There is no mention of any level of autonomous driving, and advanced autonomous driving should not be expected, at least as standard: although the Sylphy's sibling, the 2018 Nissan Leaf, has ProPilot (Nissan's semi-autonomous driving system) available as an option, the lower-cost Sylphy may not receive the same semi-autonomous treatment.

According to José Muñoz, Nissan's chief performance officer and chairman of the Management Committee for China, "the new Sylphy Zero Emission will be Nissan's first mass-production electric vehicle for the China market and one of the 20 electrified models that we plan to introduce over the next five years." It comes as no surprise that Nissan is placing a big bet on China: the Chinese EV market is modelled after the California's Zero Emission Vehicle programme. Accordingly, automakers who are active in China will soon be required to generate a specific number of credits by selling electric vehicles. In case they are not able to, they will be forced to buy the missing credit from other automakers who have generated a surplus. This should encourage all automakers to introduce EV options in their fleet. Moreover, foreign automakers, such as Nissan and Tesla, need to compete with the local automakers which are able to offer very competitive prices. In 2017, for example, 96% of all the EVs sold in China were made by Chinese automakers such as BYD and Beijing Electric Vehicle Corporation. To provide some context, Beijing Auto EC 180, which tops the sales chart, has an electric range of 110 miles / 177km and sells for the equivalent of approximately $7,000 after incentives. The new Nissan Sylphy will sell for approximately $24,000 after incentives. 

Given the penchant of the Chinese buyers for higher quality vehicles (Tesla Model X, for example, sells quite well in China), there is no doubt that there is a market for the Sylphy. It remains to be seen whether the combination of higher-than-Chinese-EVs quality and the relatively inexpensive price tag will manage to secure Nissan the buyers it seeks. 

Photo Credit: Nissan Newsroom