Nissan is ready to broaden its vehicle electrification sales by taking the Note e-Power hybrid global after nudging past the Toyota Prius.

The automaker launched the e-Power option to the Note subcompact hatchback in its home market last November – only to see it sell like hotcakes and beat the leading Prius in Japanese market sales in January.

It was a bit of a surprise to the automaker and observers in Japan. The gasoline-engine Note had been stale in the market, but the hybrid e-Power was able to be number one in overall auto sales. The Prius has been one of the best selling cars in that country.

Now the Japanese automaker is hoping to spread that enthusiasm to overseas markets.

“It is a technology that clearly can fit outside Japan in all the key markets,” said Daniele Schillaci, Nissan’s executive vice president in charge of global marketing and sales, at the Shanghai auto show. “We are thinking about moving forward faster on electrification, not only in pure EVs, but also in this e-Power technology.”

However, the company has yet to specify which key markets the Note e-Power will include. It’s been selling in the U.S. market as Versa Note with a gasoline engine.

Nissan hopes overseas introduction of the e-Power’s innovative hybrid system will appeal to customers interested in battery-powered vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and the e-NV200 all-electric van.

The Note e-Power 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.

It differs from the Prius in technology by having the Note e-Power’s battery power provide more of the forward motion. Toyota splits propulsion between the engine and the motor.

Nissan has been able to reduce costs in the Note e-Power by sharing some parts with the Leaf.

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The Prius still beats the e-Power hybrid in Japanese fuel economy ratings. The Note e-Power gets a 32.7 kilometers per liter (77 mpg) score, while the hybrid Prius gets 96 mpg and the plug-in hybrid Prius Prime gets 87.5 mpg.

For comparison sake, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given the 2017 Prius hybrid 53 mpg in combined rating, while the Prius Prime received a 133 MPGe combined rating.

As mentioned, the company has yet to release a global product introduction schedule.

Schillaci does think the e-Power’s benefits will find interest and sales overseas.

“When a technology is successful, it is natural for us to seek something a bit wider,” he said.

Toyota had been seeing its sales of the Prius decline in the U.S. market in the recent years. While the Japanese automaker has been swapping the top spot for hybrid sales with the Ford Fusion Hybrid this year, overall hybrid sales are up 10.5 percent this year compared to the first four months of 2016 in the U.S.

It might be a good time to launch the Nissan Note e-Power in the U.S., and possibly other Nissan models with the e-Power hybrid system.

Automotive News