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Today Nissan unveiled a plan to develop and launch all-electric vehicles by early in the next decade, confirming reports that have been circulating for weeks. Nissan will develop two types of electric vehicles, one battery powered and the other run by hydrogen fuel cells. The plan is part of a larger project also announced today that includes ultra-efficient gas-powered cars and plug-in hybrids.

In recent months major automakers have shown increased interest in more fuel-efficient vehicles. They’ve announced plans for greater production of vehicles that can run on either gasoline or ethanol. DaimlerChrysler is touting its clean diesel vehicles (diesel is much more efficient than gas). BMW recently demonstrated a production-ready hydrogen-powered car. And GM, which has long been a proponent of hydrogen fuel cells, recently announced plans to produce a plug-in hybrid, which will rely on electricity from the grid for much of its power by recharging large battery packs from an outlet. Toyota, which has led the field with its Prius hybrid, is also developing technology for plug-in hybrids.

Nissan’s plan promises a gas-powered car with better efficiency than a hybrid (about 80 miles to the gallon), in addition to a new hybrid. The manufacturer also plans a diesel vehicle that can meet tough U.S. emission standards, as well as cars that can run on ethanol.

And while the company says that gas will be the primary auto fuel for the foreseeable future, it intends to sell an all-electric battery-powered vehicle in Japan starting “during the early part of the next decade.” Apparently to support this effort, Nissan will start a new company to develop, make, and market advanced lithium-ion batteries. And to make sure it’s betting on all the horses, the company also plans another generation of its hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered electric vehicle.

An interesting aspect of the Nissan approach is the emphasis on improving gas-powered vehicles with technologies such as “variable event and lift” (which continuously adjusts valves to help ensure complete combustion) and turbocharging. Because these sorts of changes can be quickly introduced across a fleet of vehicles, they could have the greatest chance of reducing fuel consumption in the short term.

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Tagged: electric cars, fuel cells, Nissan

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