Think energy-efficient vehicles have to come attached to words like “micro” and “mini”? Think again. Nissan—maker of the tiny, alt power Leaf—has launced a new energy-efficient vehicle, one a bit bigger than the Leaf. Nissan’s new ride is as long as one and a half football fields, weighs 11,400 tons and can haul 1,380 brand new Leafs (Leaves?) at a top speed of about 21 knots, or 24 mph.
Nissan’s new vehicle is a jumbo, sea-going car carrier called the Nichioh Maru. The gigantic ship, a floating multistory parking garage of sorts, has been nicknamed the RoRo, short for “roll on-roll off”.
Nissan plans to use the ship to transport complete Leafs as well as parts and supplies in daily service on a 1,120 mile domestic roundtrip route from Oppama Wharf near Yokohama, to Kobe, and then to the southern island of Kyushu. The RoRo will make two round trips per week.
So just how do you make a leviathan like the RoRo green? For Nissan, it was a four-year process. The most obvious addition is the 281 solar panels fitted to the carrier’s deck. These panels can create 50 kilowatts (kW) of juice, some of which is stored in lithium ion batteries for low-sunlight days. The panels power the LED lights that illuminate the ship’s hold and crew quarters, making it the first Japanese domestic vessel to have photovoltaic panels. It might not sound like much, but this small addition means the RoRo doesn’t have to fire up a diesel generator to run those lights.