Japanese car buyers now have a new kind of hybrid model to choose from.
The Nissan Note e-Power, for now available only in Japan, is a series hybrid that uses its 1.2-liter 3-cylinder engine as a generator to charge the 1.5-kWh battery while an electric motor drives the front wheels.
As such, it’s a twist from hybrids such as from rival Toyota that split mechanical propulsion duties between the engine and motor, and Nissan hopes it will serve as a “bridge” for customers as they move from gas-powered vehicles to all-electric vehicles.
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Nissan can also reduce costs by selling the e-Power, according to Reuters, since it shares some parts with the Leaf.
Nissan’s Leaf is the most popular EV globally, but sales haven’t quite met expectations. The hybrid market is stronger in Japan than in other places.
The e-Power isn’t yet on the menu for American or European buyers, because it’s being built to suit Japanese driving habits and environments, which are more urban-centric.
Nissan’s electrified-vehicle strategy initially jumped past hybrids straight into full EVs, but that meant the brand ceded some market share, particularly to rival Toyota.
“We can’t avoid the fact that EVs remain expensive compared with conventional gasoline vehicles, while there’s also an ongoing assumption that EVs aren’t suited to traveling long ranges,” Hideyuki Sakamoto, a Nissan executive vice president, told Reuters.
Similar to the Chevrolet Volt, the e-Power system uses an electric motor to drive the wheels and a gas engine to provide charge for the electric motor. The e-Power’s electric motor is 40 kW and makes 109 horsepower. The battery pack is 1.5 kWh. Nissan claims fuel economy of up to 80 mpg.
Nissan also has plans to develop cheap, small EVs for China and may also look to use a plug-in hybrid system developed by Mitsubishi. A fuel-cell vehicle is also under development.