The Deeper Meaning of the Infiniti M35h Hybrid

We’ve been reporting about Infiniti’s hybrid plans since 2007. Those plans took a step forward in March when Infiniti unveiled the M35h Hybrid sedan at the Geneva Motor Show. The gas-electric sedan is now much closer to production, and making the international auto show rounds—beginning with the Paris Motor Show that opens next week and the Los Angeles show in November.

A long list of electric cars is likely to upstage the 300-horsepower M35h in Paris, so green enthusiasts might overlook the M35h as just another car with a gas engine. Yes, the electric car concepts in Paris will promise zero emissions and zero petroleum, but like a lot of hype at the big auto shows, very few of the models will go into production. Meanwhile, the Infiniti M35h is definitely going on sale next spring in Europe, and in the United States probably later in the year. Its meaning to the green car movement shouldn’t be easily dismissed.

Hybrids for Size, Speed and MPG

If Nissan, the most ardent of electric car champions, is trumpeting the benefits of a gas-electric hybrid, it must say something about the enduring role that hybrids can play in improving the fuel efficiency of faster and more spacious cars that fuel up at the pumps instead of the plug. We’re not saying that Infiniti won’t offer a pure electric car. Bring it on! Infiniti has been floating the idea for most of this year. In fact, a few days ago Infiniti released a sketch of an EV that it promises for 2013, but we’ll have to wait and see how this idea materializes.

Pure-electric versus hybrid-electric is not an either-or decision. It’s both, with hybrids apparently headed for more mainstream luxury buyers who want or expect more size, power, and luxury features—with less fuel consumption.

Consider this: The Infiniti M35h will take the efficiency of the gas-powered Infiniti M sedan from the low 20s in combined city/highway mpg to the low 30s. At the same time,
the M35h will be the fastest accelerating Infiniti in Europe. Even though sales of the M35h Hybrid will be relatively low, Nissan engineers designed the M hybrid system to fit all of Infiniti’s rear-wheel-drive models, including the G sedan and coupe and the EX and FX crossovers. That suggests a strong hybrid path for the Infiniti luxury line—similarly to what Lexus and Mercedes have said: all their luxury models will soon have a hybrid option.

The luxury market isn’t going away, and why wouldn’t the luxury buyer want what the Infiniti hybrid system can offer?

  • 0 – 60 miles per hour is less than 5.9 seconds
  • Fuel economy that’s around 50 percent better than the gas-powered version
  • Great aerodynamics (Cd: 0.27)
  • Powerful lightweight lithium ion batteries (1.3 kWh’s worth)
  • Top speed of 155 miles per hour

These attributes are delivered via a 3.5-liter V6 engine with a 50 kW electric motor integrated into its seven-speed automatic transmission. The architecture is a front-engine, rear-drive-only layout with a one-motor/two-clutch system. An electronically controlled transmission enhances responsiveness for a sportier driving feel.

There’s still not a definite date for a sales launch of the Infiniti M35h in North America. Prices and detailed specifications are not expected until early 2011.