Ultra long-range electric cars possible but not viable says Nissan Engineer

Tom McCabe also explains why the new Leaf is more than just a refresh

Tom McCabe, Senior Engineer of Customer Orientated Engineering at Nissan spoke to T3 about the future of electric cars and about what makes the new Leaf such a step forward

A Senior Engineer at Nissan has said that while ultra long-range electric vehicles are indeed possible (500miles and upwards) they'd be too heavy and too expensive for todays market.

The new Nissan Leaf 2013 model features an impressive 199km range, a considerable improvement over the last model which managed 175km and while it would be possible to make them go further, McCabe argues there's simply no need at present.

"We've always got the discussion between the weights of the battery, the cost of the battery, and how far people want to go. So we've got to make a viable product for people. For example if we gave you a car with 500 miles, it would be a very heavy car, it would be a very expensive car and we'd also have to completely change the package."

"In the next five years, obviously we're looking at other EV's and we'll continue to look at how we can improve range."

"What's really important to realise though is that batteries are expensive and customers ultimately have to pay for them. They're also heavy. So what you've got to bear in mind is that technically it's possible to make a car with a very long range, but then for 95 per cent of your usage you're going to be carrying around a very heavy car with a huge investment in battery performance."

To make sure the Leaf uses every drop of its battery life efficiently Nissan have reportedly made several key changes, most noticeably in the weight department. The car is now 32kg lighter and comes with a state-of-the-art Bose sound system that has been specifically built for lightness.

One of the biggest updates though comes in the form of the Leaf's powerful electric motor which McCabe proudly states is by far one of the best alternatives to internal combustion yet.

"If you look at the essential efficiency figures of an electric motor, it's way over 90 per cent. Plus we can recuperate a lot of brake energy, with the sort of the technology we have on the Leaf, about 85 per cent of the time your decelerating we can recuperate that energy and put it back to the battery."

"The motor is actually very small –it's about the size of a football whereas the rest of the power train is made up of an on-board charger and inverter.... from an engineering point of view it's not really even an argument"

It wasn't just the motor though, Nissan reportedly started from scratch with the heating system as well switching to a new pump-based system which is now around 70 per cent more efficient.