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Nissan/Renault CEO: “We Need Another Planet”

by Jack Rosebro

Addressing journalists at a markedly subdued Los Angeles Auto Show, Nissan chairman and Renault SA co-chairman Carlos Ghosn acknowledged that “there is no book to follow” for automakers as they struggle with this year’s global financial crisis, and predicted that “we are going to see fewer actors” in the auto manufacturing industry.

Ghosn cautioned, however, that the greater long-term challenge will be the delivery of zero-emission vehicles in time to satisfy customer demand, especially from emerging economies, and that such demand could see the global vehicle population quadruple from 600 million vehicles today to as much as 2.5 billion vehicles by 2050.

It is fair to say that no one predicted the global turmoil of 2008,” said Ghosn, who warned that the short-term solution for OEMs is to “avoid burning cash” for the next year or so. “If you can’t make it in the short term,” he warned, “there is no reason to plan for 2012.

Looking farther into the future, Ghosn noted that “there is no reasonable substitute for cars” for at least the next ten to fifteen years, and that the purchase of a first car remains a “major life event” in much of the world.

This, he said, is particularly so in emerging economies, some of which have fifty vehicles for every thousand citizens, as opposed to the United States ratio of eight hundred vehicles per thousand citizens.

“Nobody today contests the fact that we have a threat from climate change. Twenty percent, thirty percent emissions reductions [per vehicle] are not going to solve the problem.”
—Carlos Ghosn

Invoking the concept of the ecological footprint, which was developed by William Rees and Mathis Wackernagel of the University of British Columbia in the early 1990s, Ghosn acknowledged that while vehicle ownership ratios in China and India may never approach those in the US, the resultant resource demand if such a scenario would come to pass would mean that “we need another planet” at minimum. Were that demand for vehicles to expand worldwide, “we would need eleven [planets].”

Ghosn also touched on Renault/Nissan’s planned global rollout of a mass-produced electric vehicle, with vehicles scheduled for sale in the US and Japan by late 2010, and sales expanding worldwide by the following year.

Quipping that “if people say ‘that’s an ugly car, but it’s electric’, we’ve lost,” Ghosn asserted that electric vehicles must be offered in all market sectors to be economically viable, “not just city cars, but minivans, 4X4s, everything” in order to leverage economies of scale. Renault/Nissan has been working on lithium-ion technology since 1992, Ghosn said, and intends to emerge as a major supplier of electric vehicle battery packs to other automakers in the future.

Ghosn also announced a partnership with the state of Oregon as well as electric utility provider Portland General Electric, wherein Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski is expected to propose a $5,000 tax credit for purchasers of electric vehicles, and fast-track required permitting and site certification for an EV charging network to be developed by PGE. In August, PGE announced that it was developing a charging network for both plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, with an eye toward the eventual development of a bidirectional vehicle-to-grid network (earlier post).

The Renault-Nissan Alliance has announced electric vehicle initiatives for multiple markets: Israel, Denmark, Portugal (in partnership with Better Place), Kanagawa Prefecture (Japan), France (with electric utility company EDF), and the Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States.



Barring any catostrophic event in population there will be 11+ Billion people on the planet by 2050. We might be fighting over food and water but atleast you will have a cool car.


Along with more fuel-efficient cars, we need more birth control!


Yes, the energy crisis is short term. Once solar panels are really mass produced and therefore become cheaper and more efficient, everyone will have access to cheap energy. This should happen soon, within the next 10 years I'd estimate.

The real long term challenges we face will be food production, loss of habitat, pollution, and water supply.

I don't quite follow what they said about it requiring 11 Earths if everyone wanted a car. Is lithium that scarce? What do you need to make an electric car with solar panels on it? Some iron for the steel, fiberglass, a little oil for some plastic parts, silicon and germanium for the solar panels, and the batteries need lithium. Doesn't seem like too much of a burden to me.



One word: Parking



You have no idea how much energy you have to spend to extract 12 kg of lithium and to make 1Kg of purified silicon or fiber glass, but also 1.5 tons of material to build the car, building the highways (yes even the bituminen to build the roads could be an issue soon, concrete is such an energy sink), bridges, and not mentionning all the nuclear plans that you have to build to fill that batteries, parking, the space and energy consumed for the car civilisation is mind boggling, and doomed to a failure as Mrs Goshn underline if we keep growing this way. If we want to keep enjoying the SUV life-style in a long term sustainable way we need to bring back the population to 1Billions people worlwide, so one child policy worldwide until the end of this century then 2 kids policy to maitain the population at constant level. the rest is BS


Mark, The surface area of a car is not enough to put enough solar panels on it to allow it to be driven.

The solar problem is that you can't store solar energy in any meaningful way, and there is no sun at night.

You can certainly use solar to boost normal electricity sources, but not replace them, unless you plan on using much less power then you do now.

[ The same problem also applies to wind - variability ]


Someone must have put a gun to Ghosn's head. The Ghosn I remember from a few years back was saying Global Warming is a hoax.


quote: "The surface area of a car is not enough to put enough solar panels on it to allow it to be driven."

Actually, not true. As I went through the calculation a few days ago, I determined that an electric car in full sunshine all day could go 30 km a day on pure solar energy. This is more-or-less confirmed with experiments on the Toyota Prius, which showed a 15 km range extension from solar panels. With expected increases in performance of commercial solar panels from 15% to, what, say, 40% in the coming decades, that range will jump to closer to 50 km or more -- of free driving!! And of course, anyone who has a home could just throw solar panels on their roof and go 300 km a day if desired.

In one 5 km by 5 km patch of desert in the Southwest, a solar power installation, using currently available PV panels, can produce a half a gigawatt of power. Well, when Saudi Arabia runs out of oil, you know how they're going to end up making energy...

Let's multiply this out to 50,000 square kilometers of solar farms. That's 1000 gigawatts. What is the energy demand of the US? (I honestly don't know, someone tell me). 50,000 square kilometers is only 200 km by 200 km. Not very big. The Southwest could support much more than that.

quote: "The solar problem is that you can't store solar energy in any meaningful way, and there is no sun at night."

Sure you can store solar power in a meaningful way -- you, along with 100 million other electric car owners, charge your 500 km range car in the daytime from power harnessed by the likes of the Topaz Solar Farm, then program your car to sell that electricity back to the grid at night until there's 70 km worth of charge left on your car -- enough to get to work the following morning, when you charge it all over again.

"You have no idea how much energy you have to spend to extract 12 kg of lithium and to make 1Kg of purified silicon or fiber glass"

You may be right, but apparently you aren't aware of how much energy is shining down on us.

I agree though, that parking and space issues aren't so easily addressed.

OK, from Wikipedia I found that the US uses 3.3 terawatts of power. That's 3300 gigawatts. Assuming this was powered with solar panels, which only produce power for half the day, that's 6600 gigawatts. Using my previous example of 0.5 GW per 25 km2, that means to power the entire US with solar farms from the Southwest deserts, you'd need an area 600 km by 600 km. So you have all of California, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico to find 600 km by 600 km. And this doesn't even factor in future advances in solar panel technology or all the people who would be throwing solar panels all over their roofs across the country, or putting solar panels on your car to drive 50 km a day for free, or the variable input form other renewable sources like wind energy.


@mahonj- The surface area of a car is not enough to put enough solar panels on it to allow it to be driven.

Even hear of the solar car race?

BTW It's electrical energy that you can't store in any meaningful way. Solar thermal power plants can and do operate at night. And wind is only variable when you look at it as a local energy source. When you think of wind as a regional energy source things change- -
Many regions of European countries integrate up to 40 percent wind power successfully. An August 2007 review of actual windpower integration by utilities in your country, "Utility Wind Integration and Operating Impact State of the Art," found that the integration cost in eight different major wind projects, ranged from 0.2 to 0.5 cents per kwh. Moreover, as we electrify transportation over the next two decades with plug-in hybrids, the grid will be able to make use of far larger amounts of intermittent, largely night-time zero-carbon electricity from wind.

And what makes you thing your current energy providers aren't variable?-


Sorry, the above Nov 19, 2008 1:47:57 PM post was from me not mahonj. Something went wrong with my copy/paste.


Hey I wonder if you could combine a solar and wind farm into the same area?


BTW Mark, its not just the resources you need to take out of the Earth. You also have the problem of waste. Right now the Earth's biosphere is absorbing half of the GHGs we produce, the other half is what's causing AGW. Hence the need for another Earth.

"Invoking the concept of the ecological footprint,"


You could combine solar and wind into the same collector. The idea is called a tornado/vortex tower-,M1 -there's even something called an updraft tower- -but the cost of building such things would make them unlikely in the near-term.


Yeah, if you cover 600kms* 600kms of surface Arizona desert you can power the all US, minus the problem of storage of such an intermitent energy of this scale and the economical viability of this, how much tons of steel you need to do that ? You know, if you extract all the gold contained in the sea water you can make everybody rich, right ? Not sure though it will ever happen .... cover 600 * 600 kms of desert with solar panel is a challenge like humanity has never faced before.


Heard a comment that re current fiscal crisis that the amount of money counted in all the derivitives etc amounts to more than all the real money in the world or that while we may have more on paper than ever before, there are a finite no of quality assets, hence the money flows out into high risk or fake assets.

If we consider the requirements of other species for healthy viable populations and the fact that these have been under pressure fro human activities for centuries, leading to extinctions.
We see that reducing pressure on the natural environment/ habitat is necessary given that we understand diversity and sustainability are a reflection of the health of our environment.

In the simplest form When indicators show other species under threat we know we are not apart.


Resource forecasting/management of an all renewable grid has been demonstrated, it just requires, well, forecasting and management.


Carlos Goshn is a cornucopian.
The number of vehicles is not going to be 4 times bigger by 2050.

Why there are no more investments in new refineries ?
because global Peak Oil is now, or within 4 years !!

"Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist"


there is a good article on peak lithium here

No absolute numbers, but 1.5 million ev's a year could be a very big 'pinch point'

Like many other things, lithium will become scarce in the numbers needed to scale up to a fully EV society. Population control is really a top priority, but it is hard to see it being accepted, or implemented very easily when the drive to procreate is our strongest urge as a species.


The surface area of a "real car" is NOT enough to power it using solar cells.
You can get a solar kit for a Prius, and it generates 215 watts.
If you get 7 hours of useful sun / day, you get about 1.5 KWH of energy which is about enough to drive 6 miles at 4 miles/kwh, which is a very high figure.
That equates to about 2200 miles / year which isn't much use to anyone.
If you want to charge an EV from solar panels, go ahead, just don't try to stick them on the car.

The solar racers are not practical cars, they are racing cars which is very different; you can't go to Wal Mart and do a weeks shopping in them with the family (which you certainly can do in a Prius), and especially not when there is no sun.

Wind is variable over large areas - you get winter inversions in the Uk and Ireland where you get No wind for 5-6 days in a row once or twice every winter: you cannot store enough energy to cover that, you just have to use fossil fuels.

The only reason Denmark has so much wind is that they can both sell excess to Germany and use hydro from Norway to buffer it when they have no wind themselves.
Even so, they only get 20% of their energy from wind.

Wind and nearby hydro go well together, wind cannot work on its own, or just with solar, it needs some other buffering source.

As people point out, you can use PHEVs to time shift power from night rate to peak times, as long as they exist in large numbers which they don't, and that you don't drive them at peak times.

If I had a PHEV, I would want some convincing that I should use extra battery cycles to do a little time shifting for the utility - I would certainly charge it at night, but I would not let people discharge my batteries without good reason - presumably the resale value of a PHEV will depend on the number of charge/discharge cycles the battery has gone through.


About the 'pinch point' of lithium; It's not the only option for storing energy. We'll use what works in the right application. Duh.

James White

The Nissan/Renault Kangoo plug-in hybrid electric vehicle gets about 150 watt-hours per mile. The roof could hold about 700 watts of solar PV. With 4 hours of full sun, the Kangoo could go 16 miles a day on just sunlight.
Alternatively, you could mount 2 kW (200 sq.ft.) of solar on your garage, produce 2400 kWh of on-peak power during the day and charge the Kangoo batteries with cheap off-peak power at night. Utilities like it because it reduces summer loads and utilizes plentiful off-peak power at night. 2400 kWh is enough for 15,000 miles of all-electric driving per year (40 miles/day).

James White

Note: The 2400 kWh is the amount of energy produced in a year by a 2 kW array.


"If you get 7 hours of useful sun / day, you get about 1.5 KWH of energy which is about enough to drive 6 miles at 4 miles/kwh, which is a very high figure.
That equates to about 2200 miles / year which isn't much use to anyone."

Well you're taking the naysayer's approach, using only current technology and not allowing for significant improvements over the next 10 years, and using lowball numbers. The EV1 got 10 kWh / 100 km which equals about 6 miles / kWh, not your 4. So that brings the range to 9 miles a day.

And that Prius add-on solar panel you referenced only covers the roof. If it were to be integrated into a vehicle's body during manufacture, and also cover the hood on the front, you'd get more power. And then get some flexible roll-up panels that go on your windows when you're not driving. It's all pretty basic stuff, on the market today.

I wonder why there's so much resistance to accepting simple calculations which clearly show how much is possible if you simply try to do it and make improvements all around.

Regarding lithium scarcity, I haven't looked into that. You are probably right. But I have a feeling we'd find a solution somehow.... I mean, when has an economist or business person ever decided to NOT venture forth in fears of a POTENTIAL overuse of resources in the future? LOL It's almost an oxymoron. If we reach a lithium supply crunch, well I'm sure some other options will become available when the necessity breeds the invention.

"cover 600 * 600 kms of desert with solar panel is a challenge like humanity has never faced before."

It would actually be significantly less because there are so many houses and warehouses in the southwest that would be happy to put solar panels on their roofs if it was economically worthwhile. The 600 km by 600 km figure is simply to put it all in scale.

Let's see here, if there were 100 million electric cars on the grid (not an unrealistic figure in 20-30 years if GM actually does start producing them now), each capable of storing 200 km of charge, at 10 kWh per 100 km, that equals 2000 million kWh. This would need to be used over a 12 hour night time period, so that's 150 million kW, or 150 gigawatts, in comparison to the US energy use of 3.3 terawatts. Now, I'm guessing that 3.3 terawatts is averaged over the whole day, so at night the usage would probably be significantly less, let's drop it to 1 terawatt. So our electric cars plugged into the grid could provide 1000 / 150, or 15% of the energy needs of the nation at night. Not very high, but significant enough that it could be used to even out the intermittencies of wind power.


The solution to our energy problems is probably not to throw some solar pannels on our suburban California two car garages. If anything, suburban houses with two car garages are what got us in this mess in the first place.

Are you proposing that the 99% of the Earth's population that doesn't live in Southern California's sunny suburban sprawl move so that they can put up a few solar pannels?

This reminds me of a self-titled "economist" I heard on the radio recently explaining that the World Bank is obsolete because impoverished populations can now apply for micro-loans on the internet. I guess the poorer ones will just have to use the free wi-fi at Starbuck's.

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