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Will Oregon Become The "New Detroit" Of The Electric Car?

Oregon's Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski is committed to working with Nissan Motors of Japan to dramatically increase the flow Nissan cars through the Port Of Portland, which is already a main shipping hub for Japanese cars and a plan to possibly use the former Freightliner truck assembly plant in Oregon as a main production site for Nissan to build electric cars in big numbers in the near future.

These plans could mean that Oregon could become the "New Detroit" of the electric car in the very near future, where most of the imports and domestic production of electric cars could be centered in Oregon for the entire U.S. market for Nissan. The Governor also has plans to build electric recharging stations throughout the state to allow for recharging of the batteries to encourage consumers to purchase electric cars. And while Oregon offers a $1500 tax credit to hybrid buyers, there are plans to allow a $5000 tax credit for buyers of all-electric cars.

The history of the electric car is actually far longer than most realize. Back as far back as 1832, there were some early German experiments in producing electric automobiles. But in the early 1900's some regular production electric cars such as the Baker Electric were available for sale. Even car collector Jay Leno owns a 100 year old example of a Baker Electric automobile in his collection of cars.

It is amazing to think that battery technology was actually good enough 100 years ago to make electric cars practical back in those days, but it was good enough that the Baker cars were reasonably good in that respect. It was however a fragile design where serious damage to the car's suspension would occur due to bad road conditions in those days that really killed off the Baker cars more than anything, and not the state of battery technology for that period. Certainly modern electric cars have advanced a great deal since then, as well as road conditions have greatly improved. Now Nissan has some advanced battery technology as well as other electronic advancements not available 100 years ago that make the modern electric car far more viable than in the past.

Detroit has had some modern experiments into electric cars, including Ford and GM, however it is Nissan that is ready to have a 2010 model year electric car ready for mass production. And Oregon's governor is banking on the notion that a revival of the electric car will also revive the Oregon economy and perhaps even make Oregon the "New Detroit" of the electric car. But despite some advantages, and some big disadvantages, the electric car has just never really caught on with consumers. And Nissan which is also part of Renault has never really been as big of a marketing success in the U.S. as Toyota or Honda have been. Toyota and Honda have been more associated with both quality and technical advancement than Nissan in the minds of many buyers, so Nissan would have to turn around the thinking of many buyers who have not as seriously considered their products as have the more loyal buyers of Toyota and Honda

nissan electric car.jpg

There are so many marketing "ifs" involved if the modern electric car is to become a success in the future. Can Nissan improve it's marketing share in the U.S? Will the new electric cars have a long range and be reliable compared to hybrids like the Toyota Prius? Oregon's governor might believe that the electric car is the wave of the future, but still others like Toyota believe in extreme hybrid models or GM believes that a hydrogen fuel cell automobile may be the future wave. But the fact of history is that the electric car has never sold very well, and has remained for the most part just an automotive oddity. But both Nissan and Oregon hope that will all change. Maybe. Maybe not.

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Comments (7)


John, sounds like you are blaming the unions for MANAGEMENT stupidity. For your information, the UAW worker on the line is paid around $28 per hour, benefits account for another $10.

The average UAW person makes around $57,000 per year. How many management people make MILLIONS per year?

But the unions are to blame? Only to the union busting GOP people. Why blame unions for mis-management problems? Are you scared of someone who can make a livable wage? Sure sounds like it.

Why does Ford need a handout? If they would sell their 65+MPG car in the US, they wouldn't need a handout.

Christ on a crutch, get a clue John, and quit blaming the people who just assemble the auto's they are told to produce. They had no say in the gas hogs that the big 3 are producing.

Whether Oregon will or will not be the new Detroit, what is clear is that the EV is here to stay and most states are trying to woo EV manufacturers, or at least offering incentives to people looking to purchase EVs.

Tom Dockery:

Where are we going to get the oil to build these cars?Go to lifeaftertheoilcrash.net for a thorough explanation.


If you have been to Detroit lately (like in the past 50 years) you wouldn't be wishing that on Portland. Unless you live anywhere else in the state and are sick of Portland's self-centered self-imposed importance to the State.

Hello Epador. I personally question whether the all-electric car will ever catch on with buyers and ever advance beyond a fringe market appeal. I almost expect that extreme hybrids may be the strongest sellers in the near future, possibly replaced by some form of hydrogen powered cars.

Nissan is also part of Renault. And Renault has had terrible marketing instincts in the U.S. and never ever caught on. In fact, every French car has been a marketing failure in the U.S., including the Citroen, largely Peugeot, and certainly Renault.

What I think is likely is that Nissan may ship a few more cars through the Port of Portland, at the expense of Detroit, and any assembly of Nissan electric cars will almost likely result in some unreasonably large tax giveaways to Nissan which will mean little real revenue for the state or even that many more jobs.

Overall, a pickup in the national economy resulting in new small businesses is far more likely to create more jobs in Oregon than some far-fetched hope of Nissan to somehow rescue the state's economy. The Governor might have his heart in the right place here, wanting to create jobs, help the environment. But I just don't think that his knowledge of the auto business is as good as mine or his business instincts as good as mine either. I expect the electric car will fizzle myself, despite improvements in battery technology, etc, since the 100 year old Baker cars, which also failed in the marketplace as well.

Recharging the electric cars continues to be a big hangup, where gas, hybrids, extreme hybrids as well as hydrogen fuel cell autos all have a bug advantage. And there will be a big battery replacement cost every few years as well with the electric cars.


Nissan isn't "part" of Renault. They own shares in each other's companies. Nissan owns 15% of Renault stock (nonvoting shares). They don't share marketing, business processes, auto tech, etc.


EV's have been feasible for many years ..oil industry has put up "barriers to entry" anywhere they could. It's simple > internal combustion complex cars create many more jobs than a simple electric car ever could.
Politicians get elected by promising lots of jobs to the unions, big tax breaks to the OIL companies, and continuation of petroleum products (pavement, plastics,etc.) .. so many millions of existing jobs depend on this current situation to continue...as it will. People do love their big, inefficient, gas-hogs. They feel important driving these monsters around.
A bus driver in Olympia WA has 2 electric vehicles and loves 'em ..they are available and cost pennies to operate ..article in Oregonian paper just a few weeks ago.


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