Even before the first e-NV200 arrived in Japan from its Spanish plant in Barcelona for shipment around the world, the production company behind the hugely popular “Ultraman” children’s television series saw the potential.
“Executives from Tsuburaya Productions wanted to create a new story for their Ultraman character with a concept based on electric vehicles, so we have been the perfect fit,” said Hideyuki Komatsu, marketing manager for Nissan in Japan who is involved with the e-NV200 sales effort.
The result is an e-NV200 van in a head-turning orange and yellow paint job that is traveling around the country to promote the show and live events featuring the Ultraman cast.
Nissan's Hideyuki Komatsu
“It’s a live-action TV series and has helped to make the van famous with children and, hopefully, with their parents as well,” said Komatsu. “We are really hoping this will make youngsters more interested in EVs as the vehicles of the future.”
And plenty of companies and communities around Japan have reached the conclusion that if the e-NV200 is good enough for a super hero, then it’s good enough for them.
Representatives of six companies and local authorities attended a ceremony at Nissan’s Oppama plant on October 30 to mark the start of domestic sales of the e-NV200, five months after it first hit the roads of markets in Europe.
“Our twin, over-arching global policies are to seek global growth and to ‘go green’,” said Taketo Yamakawa, president of DHL Japan. “A big part of that will be through reducing our CO2 emissions and in 2007 we set a target of a 30 percent reduction by 2020.”
Adopting the e-NV200 into the DHL fleet will play a big part in achieving that aim, Yamakawa said.
The e-NV200 rolling off the line
“We have taken part in tests and the vehicle has been very favorably received by our drivers,” he said, adding that customers are also drawn to a company that takes its commitment to the environment seriously.
Shinji Kubo is in charge of introducing renewable energies to the city of Satsumasendai, in Kagoshima Prefecture, southern Japan. He said that a six-month experiment with electric vehicles in the community – such as shuttle buses – had worked well.
“Everyone realizes that EVs are friendly to the environment and, in our experience, they have been very convenient to use as well,” he said. “We now have eight quick charging stations around the city and we’re working with the operators of convenience stores, department stores and other places so eventually we can have as many as 40 charging points.
“The number of traditional gas stations is declining in our area, so electric vehicles really are the vehicles of the future for us,” he said.
The e-NV200 has been selected by a number of companies around the world as their next-generation vehicle.
Nissan's Katagiri unveils the e-NV200
And Takao Katagiri, Nissan’s executive vice president in charge of Asia, Oceania, and Japan marketing and sales, is confident that it will be similarly popular in the company’s home market.
“With the e-NV200, our second EV available in Japan, we aim to provide new value to our customers and, at the same time, help realize zero emission mobility,” he said at the rolling-out ceremony.
The e-NV200 will benefit from pioneering example set by the LEAF, the world’s first all-electric passenger vehicle, and a network of about 2,100 conventional chargers and 1,300 quick chargers are already in place at Nissan dealers across the nation. More chargers are regularly being added through a national campaign involving Japan’s four major automakers to have 6,000 quick chargers overall in operation by 2015, Katagiri said.
Corporate clients are expected to account for around 60 percent of sales, at least initially, with individual business consumers also likely to be key clients.
“The infrastructure is being developed and more companies are expanding the number of EVs on the market, so this strategy is gaining momentum,” Katagiri added.
With the popularity of EVs rising among youngsters through its association with Ultraman, and now fleet companies looking seriously at EVs as transport options with the arrival of Nissan’s second all-electric vehicle, the future for zero emissions in Japan continues to improve.