By Norihiko Shirouzu
Jan 23 (Reuters) - Renault SA RENA.PA, Nissan Motor Co 7201.T and Mitsubishi Motors Corp 7211.T plan to triple their investment to jointly develop electric vehicles (EVs), two people with knowledge of the plan told Reuters.
As established automakers face pressure from new competitors and an expected shift in demand toward EVs, the French-Japanese alliance is seeking to deepen cooperation.
The three are expected to announce on Thursday a plan to invest more than 20 billion euros ($23 billion) over the next five years on EV development, the sources said. By 2030, the alliance is expected to come up with more than 30 new battery EVs underpinned by five common platforms, they said.
That is in addition to 10 billion euros the group has already spent on electrification, said the two people with knowledge of the plan.
Spokespeople for Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.
The “Alliance to 2030” plan aims to show “intensified cooperation” among the automakers, highlighting a “shared vision on electrification and connected mobility,” one source said. The five common platforms are expected to cover 90% of EVs the companies are expected to develop and launch by 2030, the sources said.
The three-firm alliance has developed and partly deployed four common EV platforms.
One underpins EVs such as Nissan’s upcoming Ariya and Renault’s Megane EV, and another supports affordable no-frills cars by Nissan and its China market partner Dongfeng, as well as for Renault’s Dacia brand. The other two are platforms for micro minis, called “kei cars” in Japan, and light commercial vehicles.
By mid-decade, the alliance aims to deploy a fifth common platform for compact EVs designed by Renault, the sources said.
Nissan has already decided to use this platform, called CMFB-EV, and other standardised components to electrify the Nissan Micra compact car, while Renault is expected to come up with a similar EV car based on the same platform, the sources said. The Micra EV is projected to be released by the mid-2020s.
The automakers hope to make compact EVs as affordable as gasoline-fuelled vehicles of similar size, the sources said.
The automakers are expected to use common batteries and other key components. The alliance plans to jointly invest in capacity to produce in France, Britain, China and Japan a total of 220 gigawatt hours of battery capacity by 2030 under the plan, the sources said.
By standardising and sharing batteries, the alliance expects to halve battery manufacturing costs, they said.
The alliance is also expected to share solid-state lithium-ion battery technology, which Nissan has been developing, they said.
The plan had been for the leaders of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi to announce the 2030 plan last autumn at an event in Japan, but the announcement was postponed until this week because of a surge in COVID-19 in Japan, the sources said.
A disagreement between Nissan and Renault over the French firm's proposals for a full-blown merger – tensions that burst into the open with the arrest of former alliance leader Carlos Ghosn in 2018 – corresponded with stalled efforts to collaborate on technology and vehicle development, people with knowledge of the matter have said.
The three automakers all have their own hybrid technologies with few shared key parts and systems. The limited cooperation in sourcing and development has raised concern within the group about the ability to achieve cost savings, one source said.
It was not immediately clear whether alliance leaders will discuss hybrids as part of their 2030 plan.
Nissan said in November it planned to spend some $18 billion over five years to accelerate vehicle electrification, launching 23 electrified vehicles - including gasoline-electric hybrids - by 2030, including 15 EVs. Half of Nissan's vehicle mix will be electrified by 2030, including EVs and e-Power hybrids, the company said.
Renault has said its Renault brand will be 100% electric in Europe by 2030, but company officials told Reuters the target does not apply to markets outside Europe and the group’s other brands, such as Dacia.
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(Reporting By Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing; Editing by William Mallard and Kevin Krolicki)
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