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Summary:

The race to develop and market environmentally friendly cars is getting fiercer. As the price of gasoline hits record heights and people are becoming more concerned about global warming, car companies are increasingly investing in ‘greener’ cars. One car manufacturer showing a massive commitment to alternative […]

The race to develop and market environmentally friendly cars is getting fiercer. As the price of gasoline hits record heights and people are becoming more concerned about global warming, car companies are increasingly investing in ‘greener’ cars. One car manufacturer showing a massive commitment to alternative vehicles is the Nissan Motor Company that has been in the news several times within the last week.

On Tuesday, Japan’s No.3 car manufacturer confirmed its plans to launch an all-electric car in the U.S. and Japan by 2010. The New York Times called Nissan’s move “the first by a major automaker to bring a zero-emission vehicle to the American market.” Nissan also envisions having a broad range of electric vehicles in the future and wants to be the world leader in zero-emissions vehicles.

The day before the company announced its green plans for the U.S., it said it will be heading into India, too. Nissan announced together with French Renault and Indian Bajaj Auto that the companies will form a joint-venture to develop, produce and market a low-cost, energy efficient car targeted at the growing Indian market. The wholesale price of the low-cost car, called ULC, will start from $2,500. The ULC will be manufactured at a new plant, with a capacity of 400,000 units per year, to be constructed in Chakan, India. The sales are to start in early 2011.

Last weekend, the Silicon Valley electric car startup Project Better Place said that Renault-Nissan, which is its partner, would likely spend between $500 million and $1 billion on building electric cars. Renault is building the cars and Nissan, via an agreement with NEC Corp., is supplying the swappable lithium-ion batteries for them.

A lot of green vehicle plans for Nissan. “We are convinced that the mass availability of affordable zero-emission vehicles is the most significant breakthrough our industry could deliver, and, together with Renault, Nissan intends to be the breakthrough leader,” said Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn according to a company press release.

Nissan hopes the eco-shift towards cleaner cars will deliver it some market share in a time when the company is expecting a sharp fall in annual profits this year due to a weak dollar, rising commodity prices and sinking U.S. demand.

The company did start to profile itself as an SUV specialist just as those vehicles started to go out of fashion, The Independent writes. So moving to greener cars could please its consumers, as well as its shareholders.

At least the example of Toyota’s Prius hybrid cars is encouraging. And the technology is slowly getting better, as companies work on innovations to address the current challenges of electric vehicles, like the small range and tough battery technology. The tricky part part will be betting on the right technology and making the right partnerships.

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