If you’re reading this post from a couch in Alpine, you can go elsewhere; this is so not for you. If, however, you’re at an independent coffee shop in Dallas, Austin or Houston, read on – as this is eventually coming to you…
At a time when it seems everything within the automotive realm is about to be electrified or autonomous, I received an invitation from the Washington Automotive Press Association to hear a presentation focused on Nissan’s Future Lab. This, of course, stands in stark contrast to Nissan’s ongoing ‘Year of the Truck’, and I’d so rather discuss bore and stroke than to be stroked (or bored) by a hypothetical view of the future. But given that it’s Nissan – and Nissan’s Leaf hasn’t done badly – I elected to plug in. That’s a pun. And I’m sorry.
If you need a dark glimpse of today’s mobility, try parking in downtown DC. The underground garage adjacent to the Nissan presentation was easy to locate, and absolutely jammed around my 11:00 a.m. arrival. Small parking slots (or no parking slots) don’t deter the great unwashed; they’ll park anything virtually anywhere in an underground environment. Wrangler Unlimiteds competed for space with Tahoes, and I was wishing I had pedaled rather than powered. After a few laps a spot was finally located, at which point I was way tired of the present – and a little curious about the future.
Our presenter was Josh Westerhold, the senior manager of the Renault-Nissan Future Lab. And while Josh – by his own admission – isn’t automotive, he does seem to have a handle on the transportation aspect of automotive. Of course, many OEMs are taking a look at changes in consumer preferences and expectations; shared rides are increasingly commonplace; adolescents no longer count the days, hours and minutes until they finally get a driver’s license; and commuting by bicycle is decidedly cool and not – notably – uncool.
Out of the numerous studies Nissan’s Future Lab has conducted, one of the most tangible is its partnership with the Scoot Network in San Francisco, supplying that organization with ten of Nissan’s New Mobility Concept Vehicles to the streets (such as they are) of San Francisco. As Nissan describes them, the electric-powered micromobility vehicles are larger than a motorcycle but substantially smaller than a conventional car. Available for rental through – you’ve already guessed it – the Scoot app sharing platform, they seem perfect for those quick errands in which parking takes more time than the actual errand. The NNMC’s are small enough to fit in spaces typically reserved for motorcycles, and those (thankfully) are generously scattered around San Francisco.
Another initiative is the repurposing of automotive batteries once they’ve passed through a typical automotive life cycle. Naturally, it has an alphanumeric descriptive – V2G – which indicates a vehicle-to-grid technology. One very large – maybe HUGE – pilot program (pun is unintentionally intended) is with the U.S. Air Force, whereby a fleet of modified Nissan Leafs discharge power back into the grid through what we’re told are a series of bi-directional charging stations. And while I’m not sure what ‘bi-directional’ means, I’m guessing North Carolina ain’t gonna’ allow it without a legislative fight.
Nissan’s corporate look at the future is relatively new, and – at this point – not necessarily that substantive. We’ll give ‘em, however, credit for trying. And if a Leaf, at some point, can heat my pool count me as all-in…