When we think of Nissan and electric vehicles, the LEAF is the first thing that springs to mind and, with over 400,000 sold to date, it's a popular one. But believe it or not, Nissan hasn't updated its fundamental EV architecture platform for a decade. Now, however, Nissan, Renault, Mitsubishi and Infiniti are destined to get a new one.
No surprises though; it's an SUV. And whilst this might make business sense, it may disappoint those after something more... dynamic.
We've already seen it in the shapes of the Nissan Ariya and Infiniti QX concept SUVs which were revealed at last year's Tokyo and Detroit Motor Shows respectively. The new dedicated EV architecture is destined to be shared with the other alliance brands not only for their pure electric vehicles, but also in hybrid and plug-in hybrid form.
According to Senior Vice President for Design at Nissan, Alfonso Albaisa, who spoke to Green Car Reports, the Alliance is changing the way they think about platforms. Rather than it being a modular chassis type system with the size, location and power of the engine the big defining factors, the new platform's main consideration is how and where the batteries are stored.
This isn't to say that ICE hasn't been taken into account; certainly in the Infiniti 'Q' concept models, such as the QX Inspiration, there is space for an engine for hybrid drive and whilst both Nissan and Infiniti have apparently ruled out PHEVs, Mitsubishi will almost certainly want to build on the success of its hugely popular Outlander PHEV.
What we can expect is that with the Nissan brand specifically, the platform won't just form the basis for a couple of cars. According to Albaisa; “...it's not one or two, or three or four; it's a bunch”. And with Nissan's global model range slowly shrinking – by over 10 per cent in the last decade – EVs are going to make up a much larger proportion of them in the coming five years.
Given that when we reported on the Nissan Ariya concept at Tokyo we pointed out the fact that much of it looked near-production ready, we're pretty sure that it won't be too long until Nissan starts talking about launch timescales. Similarly for Infiniti, the Q concepts seem quite advanced in their development so we expect them to follow. As for Mitsubishi and Renault; our guess is they'll join in a little further down the line, with any car being added to the Renault line-up complementing rather than replacing the French brand's EV line-up.
The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance's platform sharing efforts are far from unique, and across the industry brands are sharing architecture within their groups and also selling their technology to other carmakers. For years cars have been becoming more homogenised, and with EVs that homogenisation has stepped up a gear.
VW has its MEB platform which is underpinning its ID. range of cars, and this will make its way into the SEAT and Skoda brands in time. But it's not just VW Group cars that will be MEB-based; Ford's lack of a platform in the medium passenger car size range has led it to make a deal to share its autonomous technology (and probably a Transit or two full of cash) in exchange for the rights to produce more than 600,000 MEB-based cars.
Kia and Hyundai are already sharing a huge number of components and their electric-global modular platform (E-GMP) for the Kona Electric and e-NIRO. With an ambition to produce over 500,000 EVs annually by 2025 and with 11 dedicated EV models coming online in that time, the brands are already working on next-generation platforms.
Toyota's e-TNGA platform is carrying its electrification efforts forward in the form of hybrids, PHEVs, fuel cell electric vehicles and BEVs. However, it won't just come with Toyota badges on the front and back as since 2005, Subaru has been working with its Japanese counterpart on all manner of R&D projects. Both brands announced last year that they are developing a platform on which to base C-segment battery electric vehicles including mid and large-size passenger cars, and the obligatory C-segment SUV.
Platform sharing isn't new, and with more brands joining forces to ride out difficult global market conditions and consolidate technology, it's only going to become more common. Much of this comes back to homogenisation, and the fact that EVs are far more suited to it than ICE ever has been. Everything about EVs lends itself to modularity in all aspects of build, from physical vehicle size to battery cell count to motor size, type and power. Whilst it's still relatively uncommon at the moment, we can see a time – very soon – when the 'white label' platform becomes the norm, whereby smaller car brands simply buy in an EV platform from larger ones to ensure they're both meeting consumer demand, and fulfilling their environmental obligations.