Nissan has launched a second vehicle with its range-extending e-Power badge, and the new model gives us a look at what’s planned for the U.S.

The Nissan Serena takes the popular minivan and adds Nissan’s latest e-Power hybrid system. The Serena is much bigger than Nissan’s first e-Power vehicle, the compact Note (sold in gas-only form in North America as the Versa Note). With a heavier chassis, more room for cargo, and seating for seven, the Note e-Power’s 107-hp electric motor wasn’t going to cut it.

That means that the Serena e-Power needed a bigger motor and a bigger battery — 132 horsepower and 1.8 kilowatt-hours, up from 107 hp and 1.5 kWh in the Note. They use the same 1.2L three-cylinder engine to charge the electric battery, but it makes 84 hp in the Serena, up from 79 hp in the Note.

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The e-Power system is not a plug-in system and uses the gas engine and regenerative braking to provide electricity. Running the engine as a one-speed generator allows it to be more fuel efficient and cleaner-running.

So what does this have to do with plans for North American hybrids? Nissan knows that U.S. buyers won’t be happy with 107-hp hybrids. They will want and need more power than a Japanese city car can offer.

“Bigger motors will be necessary for Europe and North America for such uses as towing or ascending long slopes,” Nissan powertrain engineer Ryuzo Noguchi told Automotive News. “U.S. market requirements are for large vehicles, so that is where we expect to apply e-Power.”

Nissan hasn’t said when the e-Power hybrid tech will arrive in the U.S., or what vehicles will get the fuel-efficient tech. Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said earlier this year that Infiniti would begin offering e-Power in the near future, and Nissan chief planning officer Philippe Klein told Automotive News that e-Power would be coming to America on high-end vehicles.

The automaker says that 65 percent of Note buyers are now choosing the e-Power system, and hopes that around 40 percent of Serena van buyers will take that option.

Nissan’s first hybrid was a version of the Altima sold from 2007 to 2011. It used Toyota’s hybrid system under license.

Automotive News