Japan’s EV Market Face Major Hurdles

movingtojapanIMAGE
movingtojapanIMAGE

Because of disasters in the past few years, many of Japan’s nuclear power plants were shut down for fears of replicating the Fukushima Power Plant. Now, as the Japanese government tries to restart dozens of nuclear power plants, the cost of electricity would surely increase.

Japan has for decades relied on nuclear power to generate electricity. This was long recognized as an alternative, clean, and zero emission to the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity. Because of the abundance and lower cost of electricity, the electric vehicle became the next step for the technology savvy society. Because of the recent disasters though, and the projected higher costs for nuclear power, this may eventually taint the use and production of electric cars.

According to Ryuichi Kino, an expert on nuclear power and hybrid technology, nuclear power remains a key source of fuel, “the green image of the electric car will get bashed to bits, maybe to the extent it will be irreparable. I have the feeling it’s quite possible that might happen.”

Just before the tsunami swept through the Fukushima plant, the government was already planning to increase the nuclear power supply from a third to half of the needs of the country’s electric grid. These plans though have since been shelved and now, a year after the disaster, many of the idled nuclear power plants would again go online after completion of safety checks have been undertaken.

Many critics have raised howls with these safety checks are viewed as inadequate. This is most especially highlighted, as the damage from the worst nuclear incident since Chernobyl still casts a long twenty kilometer no go zone shadow around Fukushima, and its surrounding areas still would be highly irradiated for years to come. Others are proposing alternative sources, such as wind or wave power, where these technologies are still pretty much in its infancy in Japan.

One such proponent is Ryuichi Sakamoto, a renowned composer and opponent of nuclear power. He received quite a number of criticisms when he appeared in the most recent Nissan Leaf commercial. In response, Sakamoto replied, “How we make electricity is going to diversify, with fossil and nuclear power declining. People should be able to choose the kind of electricity they want to use.”

Another major hurdle is the lack of infrastructure available to electric cars. This together with its higher sticker price has contributed to the lackluster performance of electric cars in the Japanese auto market.

Nissan Leaf as a Battery Pack

NSSANleaf
NSSANleaf

Giant Japanese carmaker Nissan has unveiled a new feature of its electric car, the Leaf. With a few adjustments, the fully electric vehicle can become an alternative electrical source able to power a medium sized family home for two (2) days using its lithium ion batteries.

The program is called the “Leaf to Home” system and was inspired by the recent disaster affecting Japan. With this system, the car can become an emergency power back up source during a natural disaster or a power blackout.

According to the carmaker, this new technological add-on can become commercially available in Japan by the first quarter of 2012. The technology essentially links the car to the home’s main circuit breaker through its quick charging port. Current Leaf batteries have the ability to store twenty four (24) kilowatt hours of energy at full charge. This amount is equal to the average Japanese home consumption for two (2) full days.

The electrical output of the Nissan Leaf using the Leaf to Home technology is six kilowatts, which is able to power appliances such as a refrigerator, air conditioner and washing machine all at the same time. Thus aside from being able to store power during off peak hours from the grid, it can return this energy should the necessity arise.