Nissan reportedly plans to end “most” gasoline engine development, becoming the first Japanese automaker to take this step, according to Nikkei Asia.

The word “most” does a lot of work in that sentence, though, as Nissan still has significant plans to continue selling and developing gas-powered vehicles.

Those plans center around the US market, where Nissan predicts that there will still be significant demand for gas pickup trucks in the coming years.

The US is Nissan’s second-largest market, where it generally sells over 1 million vehicles per year (recent numbers have fluctuated due to COVID). Nissan’s best-selling vehicle in the US is the Rogue SUV/CUV at around ~300k per year, though the Frontier and Titan pickups combine for about 100k sales per year.

While the US does prefer larger vehicles and pickup trucks are very popular here, that popularity has extended to upcoming electric pickups as well. A slate of upcoming electric pickup trucks – the F-150 Lightning, Silverado EV, Hummer EV, Rivian R1T and Cybertruck – have all been subject to tremendous interest, generally selling out years worth of production as soon as reservations opened, and are hitting market now or soon. Nissan so far has not announced an electric pickup truck, though they have shown a concept.

Nissan also will continue development of hybrid engines for global markets, which likely includes both conventional gas hybrids (which run fully on gasoline) and plug-in models which can run on a battery charged from the electrical grid.

For current engines, Nissan will continue to improve those designs, but will not develop new designs. Nikkei reports that Nissan does not plan any job cuts at engine production plants at this stage, and that the company will gradually shuffle engine development and production workers into EV-related positions.

One of the main motivations for focusing on EVs is the upcoming Euro 7 emissions standard, which will cause a big shakeup in the automotive industry and restrict emissions greatly from vehicles. The plans haven’t yet been finalized but could go into effect as early as 2025.

Despite Euro 7 only covering the EU market, Nissan’s pause in gas engine development would also cover Chinese and Japanese markets, both of which are expected to have rather more lax standards than the EU. This would represent a rare example of an automaker making a move without being forced to do so.

Last November, Nissan revealed their “Ambition 2030” electric car plan, with some (mildly) ambitious targets for electrifying their fleet. That announcement included a shift to 50% “electrified” sales by 2030 and trillions of yen (~$18 billion) in investment towards EV and battery projects.

Nissan was one of the first automakers globally to bring a serious electric vehicle to the road with the Nissan Leaf in 2011, which beat even the Tesla Model S to market. The Leaf remained the best-selling EV globally until the Tesla Model 3 passed it in total sales in early 2020. But 11 years later the Leaf remains the only Nissan EV available in the US, and only one other electric model, the e-NV200 van, available in Japan and Europe. The Ariya, Nissan’s upcoming electric CUV, is expected to start deliveries later this year.

Electrek reached out to Nissan US, which did not have immediate comment on the Nikkei report (which came out after work hours in Japan). We will update this story if we hear more.

Electrek’s Take

While Nissan’s reported plans could (and should) be stronger, this would nevertheless put Nissan ahead of its Japanese counterparts, which are largely still quite hostile to electric vehicles.

We’ve written before that any post-2035 ambition for ending gas sales is pathetic due to the way car development cycles work. If a company simply stops designing new gas models from here on out – even if they see development through on models that are already in development – those models will naturally reach end of life around 2035 anyway. There really is no reason for a company to start development on new gas models today given the direction the industry – and technology, and the climate emergency – is going, so there should be no reason to continue selling gas vehicles post-2035.

Nissan has not yet committed to when it will end gas car sales completely, though in it’s ambitious 2030 plan the company committed to at least 50% of its cars having a gas engine in 2030 – the year that scientists say is a crucial breakpoint for stopping the worst effects of climate change.

So our reaction to today’s report is mixed. While Nissan is sending a signal that it ahead of Japan and making moves before the rest of their national auto industry, this, as we too often need to say, could be stronger. A number of other brands that were not the global EV sales leader throughout the entire decade of the 2010s have committed to becoming all-electric around the 2030 mark, or have ended engine development already. Given Nissan’s former leadership in the EV space, this is the least it could do, and the company should pick up the pace beyond this.

So we hope that Nissan will not only confirm this report, but soon announce some even stronger moves in EVs. Given how slow the rest of Japan is moving, with a little work Nissan could position itself as Japan’s leader for new vehicles going forward, and be prepared to capture more of the market by being better-prepared for the future than their domestic rivals.

(Also, as an aside: come on, US. Is the country that so often loudly proclaims itself #1 at everything in the world really going to lag so far behind everywhere else that we’re forcing companies to continue to develop old technology just for us? How sad is that? Get it together, everyone. This is not “#1” behavior. That said, US voters support all-EV by 2030, but it’s automakers and governments which are lagging)

Subscribe to Electrek on YouTube for exclusive videos and subscribe to the podcast.