Nissan has taken an early lead on pure electric cars with the Nissan LEAF. But to meet tougher fuel efficiency and emissions standards, the company will need to broadly apply a range of technologies across its product line. That was the subtext of Nissan’s choice to use its next-generation conventional hybrid technology for the Nissan Ellure concept unveiled at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, running through Nov. 28.
The stated purpose of the Ellure concept design is mostly about the visual design direction of Nissan’s future sedans—including the Versa, Sentra, and Altima. The company describes the aesthetics as “an emotive, almost hidden ambience” that would be ideal for “women in their ’30s and ’40s with a sense of sophistication and rebellion.” It’s hard to make sense of this description, but the Ellure’s design eschews the high-tech ecogeekiness of the Nissan LEAF.
In other words, better aerodynamics are more modest in appearance. “We’ve used Ellure to explore subtle ways to reduce or eliminate body openings that can cause drag, such as the solid yet transparent coverings on the wheels and grilles, without impacting the beauty of the vehicle,” said Shiro Nakamura, senior vice president and chief creative officer.
The amount of battery power is also toned down. Nick Chambers of PluginCars.com spoke with Larry Dominique, Nissan’s chief of product planning, about the possibility of the Ellure becoming a plug-in car. (See video below.) In response, Dominique hinted that larger sedans might face issues of “basic physics” related to extra battery weight required for a pure electric car.
Instead, the Ellure will use Nissan’s future front-wheel-drive full hybrid system, powered by a supercharged 2.5-liter inline-four and a 25-kilowatt electric motor, mated to the automaker’s Xtronic CVT. Nissan didn’t give many more details in L.A., but it represents a departure from the Infiniti M35’s front-engine rear-wheel-drive approach, using a one motor-two clutch system. On the rear-wheel hybrid, when the clutch is engaged, the engine, motor and wheels are directly connected, allowing for a sportier driving experience.
So, expect pure EV, plug-in hybrid, and at least two flavors of hybrid—front- and rear-wheel drive—from Nissan. “You definitely will see more technology on these vehicles to meet future CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standards and CO2,” Dominique said. At first, that looks like more hybrids—but that could change over time. “As we come into new generations of batteries, then we’ll have opportunities for greater levels of electrification” on vehicles like the Ellure, which is similar in size to the Altima.