Ghosn’s Nissan Leaf Car

 Fujii’s 1981 DMC-12 has a lithium-ion battery that takes four hours to charge, so he only drives it on weekends and recharges it at a local workshop. That’s also a hurdle for Nissan Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn, whose electric Leaf, unveiled this month, joins battery-powered designs from Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.

Nissan’s Ghosn estimates that by 2020, electric vehicles will make up 10 percent of the market — about 65 million units last year. Lack of fast-charging stations on roads and at home is one of the key challenges makers must overcome.

The Japanese carmakers join California’s Tesla Motors Inc., whose $109,000 Roadster is the only electric car sold in the U.S. approved for highway use. More battery-powered models are on their way as governments implement stricter C02 emissions regulations and seek to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.

Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s largest carmaker, plans to introduce an electric car in 2012 and General Motors Co. aims to start selling the Chevrolet Volt by November 2010.

Ghosn’s market forecast is too optimistic, according to Ashvin Chotai, managing director of Intelligence Automotive Asia Ltd. in London. Even with competitive pricing, higher gasoline prices and adequate charging stations, demand may reach only a few million units by 2020, he said. Auto consulting company CSM Worldwide predicts global electric car production will only reach 289,000 units by 2015.

Previous attempts to popularize electric cars have been thwarted by inadequate infrastructure and the cost of production. Toyota sold only about 1,900 electric RAV4 sport-utility vehicles between 1997 and 2003 in the U.S. and Japan.

One is range. Typical gasoline-powered cars run for 300- 400 miles (480-640 kilometers) on a tank of gas. The i-MiEV and Leaf are limited to about 100 miles on a full charge and running the air conditioner can cut the i-MiEV’s range to 62 miles. Fuji Heavy’s Stella can go about 56 miles. (Fujii’s DeLorean stops after about 30.)

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