Hung Hom, Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong. Studies show that by 2050 the human population will reach 9.9 Billion and that two out of three people will be living in cities. And this forecast is the reason why Nissan brought together industry leaders, government officials, company executives, and media representatives, including yours truly, for the seventh edition of Nissan Futures, which was held in Hong Kong from March 8-10, 2019. Under the theme “Transform the Way We Drive and Live”, the event gathered key leaders to discuss the evolving mobility needs and the future of cities in Asia and Oceania.
On Day 1 (March 8, Friday), we drove the Nissan Leaf from the Kerry Hotel in Kowloon Bay, around Hong Kong and back, to get a feel of the electric vehicle (EV) in everyday city traffic conditions. We were asked to drive it in various modes and experience it on city roads, and up and down Hong Kong’s mountain roads. At one point, the organizers instructed us to drive the Leaf in Eco mode to see how we can economize the use of our car’s battery charge. Sufficed to say, the Nissan Leaf performed like a car with an internal combustion engine (ICE) but with the added benefits of almost instantaneous torque and zero emissions from its electric motor. Its range was extended with its 60 kWh battery pack, which allowed us to drive worry-free. After almost two hours driving around Hong Kong, we came to the conclusion that EVs are the wave of the future. After all, 400,000 Nissan Leaf owners can’t be wrong.
Nissan Leaf in the Philippines in 2020
Day 2 (March 9, Saturday), was the actual Nissan Futures thought leadership and panel discussions. Yutaka Sanada, regional senior vice president for Nissan Asia & Oceania, opened the sessions. “Asia Pacific is home to more than 2.1 billion urban residents, that is 60 per cent of the world’s urban population. This brings increased pressure on the region’s cities and mobility systems. Through Nissan Futures, we can discuss solutions for the region’s city and mobility systems. Driven by our Nissan Intelligent Mobility vision, we are committed to bringing safe, smart and sustainable mobility to more people.” Sanada-san introduced Nissan’s e-Power concept where the Nissan Leaf not only provides mobility but clean energy to power future homes and offices. He also announced that the Leaf will be introduced in the Philippines by 2020.
Maarten Sierhuis, former NASA engineer and now Chief Technology Director of the Nissan Research Center in Silicon Valley, presented the future of mobility in which human-driven and autonomous smart EVs will have a major role in transporting people and goods. Vivek Vaidya, Associate Partner and Senior Vice President of Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific, presented a study on the evolving role of mobility in the cities of the future and offered insights on the future of mobility in Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Seoul, Singapore and Sydney. Vaidya noted that among these cities, Manila is unique because majority of its population relies on around 10,000 jeepneys for mass transportation, which other cities do not have. He sees e-Jeepneys as a unique solution to Manila’s transportation and environmental problems.
The Future of Cities: Changing the Way We Live
The first set of discussions centered on transforming the way we live and the future of cities. Moderated by Cassian Cheung, Adjunct Professor from the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, the panelists included Maarten Sierhuis of Nissan; Mohd Yusoff Sulaiman, Chief Executive Officer of the Malaysia Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT); Tim Washington, Founder of JET Charge, Australia; Hung Yuen Justin, Director of GRST Energy Limited; and Assistant Secretary Leonido “Bodie” Pulido III, of the Philippine Department of Energy (DOE).
The panelists discussed solutions to the congestion and pollution caused by the unprecedented number of people and vehicles in urbanized areas around Asia and Oceania. While most are hopeful that technological advancements will offer solutions, DOE Asec. Pulido hoped that the heritage, individuality and uniqueness of each city will remain intact. The panelists agreed that each city has unique problems that require unique solutions and that EVs and autonomous driving with human interfaces will be integral parts of future cities. Governments should plan for infrastructure to support EVs and the eventual change from fuel-powered cars to EVs. JET Charge’s Washington suggested that vehicles will no longer be considered merely as financial assets but as mobile energy assets as well, since these EVs will also be supplying power.
The Future of Mobility: Changing the Way We Drive
The second set of discussions focused on the future of the automobile. Moderated by Vivek Vaidya, the panelists included Vincent Wijnen, Senior Vice President of Nissan Asia & Oceania; Daesung Yoon, Vice Chairman of Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA); Iain MacBeth, Head of Foresight, Transport Innovation Directorate, Transport of London; Iim Fahima Jachja, Founder of Queenrides, Indonesia; and Yossapong Laoonual, President of the Electric Vehicle Association of Thailand (EVAT).
The panelists agreed that the future of Asia and Oceania’s roads will have more EVs transporting people and goods, increased autonomy, and improved connectivity. Wijnen stated that with 400,000 Nissan Leafs sold since its introduction, Nissan has opened opportunities for future electric mobility ecosystems. They also foresee that the widespread EV technology and charging infrastructure plus the increasing autonomy of vehicles will provide convenience to end users as well as new opportunities to increase road safety, which is passionately advocated by Queenrides’ Jachja. With improved interconnectivity, the panelists foresee the rise of ride-sharing businesses and the decreased demands for individual vehicle ownership. They cited the current trend where “millennials” favor ride-sharing services over driving, especially when autonomous vehicles become part of the mainstream.
Smart, Safe, Sustainable and Superb
The general consensus among the panelists is that EVs with zero emissions provide smart, safe and sustainable mobility systems that can also help provide energy solutions, especially with improved batteries, increased power and range, and the promise of solar-powered charging stations to lessen the dependence on oil-fired power plants. Autonomous safety systems, interconnectivity and smart mobility solutions such as “Connected Vehicle to Everything” (V2X) protocols can help prevent vehicle collisions and lessen traffic-related deaths that could lead to a zero-fatality future. Nic Thomas, Global Director for Nissan’s Electric Vehicle Division closed the event by showing that the Leaf is already capable of doing most of these things today. In short, the future is almost here now.
And in a fitting way to showcase the increasing evolution of electric vehicles, Day 3 (March 10) found us in the grandstands watching the 2019 HKT Hong Kong E-Prix race (Formula E) where the Nissan e.dams team with drivers Oliver Rowland and Sebastien Buemi fielded two electric race cars. Unfortunately, after a promising start, the Nissan Formula E racing team suffered damages to both cars around the wet circuit, which ended their race early. Like in Formula One (F1), Nissan plans to funnel the learned technology from the high-performance e-racing cars to mass market electric vehicles. During the entire weekend, Nissan showed that they are committed to an entirely electric and exciting future!
Watch out for our test drive review of the 2019 Nissan Leaf coming really soon.