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.