Nissan’s Andy Palmer: Infiniti EV Was Delayed To Wait For New Tech

By · July 18, 2013

Infiniti LE

Infiniti boss Johan de Nysschen, who is skeptical about the potential of electric cars, announced in early June that the first all-electric car from Nissan’s luxury brand would be delayed, and could get scrapped altogether.

Andy Palmer, Nissan executive vice-president, is now putting a different spin on Nissan’s decision to delay or kill an all-electric Infiniti sedan. Unveiled as the Infiniti LE concept at the 2012 New York Auto Show and previously promised as a 2015 model, Palmer told Automotive News Europe yesterday that the delay of Infiniti’s first luxury electric car is driven by Nissan’s desire to keep up with the latest EV technology.

When de Nysschen—who had previously called Chevrolet Volt buyers “idiots” in 2009 when he was head of Audi in the U.S.—spoke to the automotive press last month, he said that the future of the LE was yet to be decided, adding that he had introduced “a whole bunch of additional considerations” to any production plans since becoming head of Infiniti last year. Some of those considerations included existing battery technology, a perceived lack of charging infrastructure, and low sales of electric cars.

Nissan’s Palmer, on the other hand, is a little more upbeat about the future for the Infiniti LE. The delays, he said, were purely technologically-driven. “There are some interesting advances in electric technology we hadn’t anticipated when we showed the LE, which, by delaying a little bit, we can incorporate into the car,” said Palmer.

One such advance, according to Palmer, is in lithium-ion battery packs. When it debuted, the LE concept was based on Nissan’s existing LEAF electric car technology, including its lithium-ion battery pack. With the LEAF now entering its third year of sales, its battery technology has been updated with new battery chemistry and cell construction. By delaying the production of the Infiniti LE Sedan, Palmer said, Nissan will give it a superior battery pack, which would be “well worth the wait.”

Infiniti might have also considered the competitive landscape in delaying the Infiniti LE. In the niche market of premium electric cars, Californian automaker Tesla dominates with its larger Model S electric sedan. The features of the Infiniti LE pale in comparison with the Model S's 250-mile range, and the fastest charging technology of any production electric car today. While the LE will be priced below the Tesla Model S, and more in line with the soon-to-be-launched BMW i3, the fight for luxury customers seeking an electric car is becoming more competitive. That's ample reason for Infiniti to pause before launching its first electric car.

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