Nissan’s New Hybrid Doubles Mileage, Part of Broad Green Strategy

The phrase “Zero Emission” is Nissan’s clarion call for a new era of electric cars, the company’s long-term strategy for sustainable mobility. But Nissan today announced a full range of mid-term fuel-saving technologies, including hybrids, clean diesels, stop-start systems, and continuously variable transmissions. In today’s press release, the company used the slogan “Pure Drive” to describe its “comprehensive suite of automotive technologies.”

The announcement mirrors the overall trend in the auto industry: to lead the march to
greater efficiency and reduced emissions with marquee electric-drive vehicles—like the all-electric LEAF for Nissan or the Chevy Volt for General Motors—while rolling out a broad range of efficient gas and diesel technologies for at least the next decade or two.

Nissan’s global introductions in the next year will include a hybrid gas-electric version of the luxury Fuga—marketed in the United States as the Infiniti M35 Hybrid—which the company says could almost double the mileage of its conventional counterpart. “We expect fuel efficiency to improve by 60 to 90 percent,” Koichi Hayasaki, chief engineer of Nissan’s hybrid system, said at a meeting briefing. Pricing has not been announced, but the M35 Hybrid is like to approach, or exceed, $60,000.

Nissan will also introduce the lightweight three-cylinder March microcar with stop-start—capable of about 60 miles per gallon—as well as a clean diesel version of the X-Trail crossover SUV.

“The adoption of different types of low-emission technologies is a great solution as we can attend different consumer needs. Pure Drive vehicles will offer customers a wider selection of models fitting both their financial and environmental needs” said Takao Katagiri, senior vice-president for Marketing & Sales in Japan. Katagiri is tacitly acknowledging that hybrids and electric cars will remain relatively expensive for a number of years, while more efficient gas engines can, in the meantime, offer smaller yet meaningful environmental benefits at a lower cost.

A Sportier Hybrid Drive System

Nissan new proprietary hybrid system will give consumers another flavor of hybrid technology—to compete against full hybrids from Toyota, Ford, General Motors, Hyundai and others.

Nissan’s hybrid technology is a one-motor, two-clutch parallel full hybrid system. It utilizes an electronically controlled clutch positioned between the engine, motor and drive wheels. The system completely disconnects the engine from the system during motor driving or deceleration. The lithium ion battery is charged by the engine while driving.

According to Nissan, the system has two advantages. When the clutch is engaged, the engine, motor and wheels are directly connected, allowing for a sportier driving experience. In addition, the engine can stay off more frequently during city driving—as much as half the driving time. The system will debut in the Infiniti M in late 2010.

Despite its emphasis on electric-drive technologies, Nissan is not standing still on improving the efficiency of the vilified gas-powered engines—which, after all, will be with us for some time. The company today announced that it would produce a pair of downsized direct injection engines, using a combination of variable valve timing and turbocharging—to add a few more percentage points of efficiency.

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  • JamesDavis

    Nissan is years ahead of other auto manufacturers with electric cars and distance. There is one thing they are right along beside American manufacturers on though and that is greed. They are pricing their nice electrics to where only people with more money than brains can afford them. That cuts down greatly on the number of electric cars that will enter the highways. I can’t keep from wondering if this is planned by Nissan so they will not embarrass their American competitors who seem not to have enough intelligent engineers to even build a battery that can compete with their acid batteries.

  • 9691

    Another competent statement from the almighty, all competent and always “positive” sir JamesDavis.
    If you are not just getting older and would like us all to know about it, than consider the fact that Nissan is a company and is in the business of making money. Companies who possess vanguard technologies are not going to make them widely available to please you. Instead they will come up with something that is only one step ahead of the competition and will give them a lead, and once that lead has been lost, they’ll pull out the next thing to restore or maintain their position. It’s the nature of business anywhere around the world and has nothing to do with the US or other corporate interests. Cell phone carriers, software companies, the military industrial complex, etc. are all like that. Oh, and are you one of the people who have money or brains? Since, surprisingly I just learned from your post that one can’t have both.

  • Dave K.

    I actually think the Nissan Leaf is cheap, if you consider the tax credit and the fuel and maintenance savings it’s really cheaper than a gas car. Do your math James.

  • usbseawolf2000

    Sounds like hype to me. I’d like to see the real world performance.

    Nissan hybrid is more complex than Honda’s IMA because it has two extra clutches and the electric motor is bigger. The e-motor is IMA acts as a flywheel, starter, alternator and boost the torque. The e-motor for Nissan hybrid do more than that and also take over the function of the torque converter.

    Nissan hybrid requires a gear box (automatic or CVT). That alone makes it more complicated than Power Split hybrid (mechanically). There will be more maintenance and point of failure to worry about. Mechanical gearbox also mean there will be restrictive operating area that would prevent the most efficient range (lowest BSFC) from the combustion engine.

    Power Split hybrid (Ford and Toyota) does everything Nissan hybrid can. On top of that, the e-motor in the Power Split hybrid takes over the job of the mechanical transmission. e-motor is actually used to multiply torque to the wheel using electricity (instead of changing gears). This is why it is called eCVT (electric transmission) like an EV with a single gear ratio. There is no reverse gear because the e-motor simply spins backward (combustion engine can’t).

  • Anonymous

    JamesDavis, investing in new technologies is expensive. They have to somehow get the investment back. That is why it always had been that new technologies, no matter if for safety or just comfort, where always first introduced in the ‘luxury’ market where they sell less, but still can charge a leg and arm to recoup the investment they made into researching and developing the new technologies. Once they have made good and covered the initial cost, it will go main stream.

    Why should that be any different for the development of alternative fuel cars? Car companies are not a charity that works for the common good – they have to make money, they have to recover investments. Yes, it would be nice if they would throw it out at cheap prices – but they can’t, or they would go under. If they don’t get government support for developing those things, they have to charge the luxury fee in the first few years before they can give it out for cheap.

    Like it or not – but that is how every (tech) business works.

  • AP

    usbseawolf2000, the “power-split” EVT used by Toyota is actually a gearbox (transmission), because it uses a planetary gear set. The only difference is that rather than having clutches to shift it, it controls the gear ratio by motor torque and speeds.

  • usbseawolf2000

    AP, that’s exactly my point. The CVT effect is done by electric motors; not by changing mechanical ratio to amplify thrust. This is fundamentally different and it only possible in gas-electric hybrid because powerful electric traction motor opens that door. Not all hybrid architecture takes advantage of this synergistic effect to simplify hardware.

  • AP

    OK, usbseawolf2000, I understand you: It doesn’t require a separate transmission. My point was that it still IS a transmission.

    The other effect of this simplicity (the lack of any clutches) is that there is no “Neutral” gear, only the promise that engine/motor speeds will be matched to act like it’s in neutral.

  • usbseawolf2000

    AP, if you are talking about transmission as a physical hardware that connects and transmit power from engine to the wheel then yes, every car need one. Reduction gears to the wheels (final drive) is considered the simplest transmission. Prius has a PSD connecting ICE and two electric motors. It is really a single speed transmission that acts like a CVT but powered by electricity.

    If you are talking about transmission in the sense of multiplying torque to change the trust at the wheel, Prius does not have one. Two propulsion systems deemed it unnecessary.

    In Nissan’s hybrid case, it requires another gearbox to multiply torque. Hyundai’s Blue Drive, Honda’s IMA, GM’s two mode, Porsche’s hybrid, etc… all need a separate gearbox between engine(s) and the wheels.

    The only other hybrid that is a single speed but also acts like a CVT is Chevy Volt (series hybrid). Tesla EVs and Nissan Leaf is also single speed CVT.

  • usbseawolf2000

    You are correct that “N” gear is really two electric motors spinning freely.

    Having the powertrain always connected to the wheel allows instant power delivery. The power delivery response is instant (especially after slowing down). It is the same feeling of driving an EV. Once you get used to it, you can’t go back to anything with a torque converter.

  • tapra1

    continuously variable transmissions. In today’s press release, the company used the slogan “Pure Drive” to describe its “comprehensive suite of automotive technologies.”Tech News

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