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Nissan adds a gasoline engine to Leaf EV powertrain

Nissan introduces series-hybrid Note e-Power for the Japanese market

Published: November 3, 2016, 5:50 AM
Updated: December 7, 2016, 5:45 PM

Nissan Note e-Power

While it may seem like sacrilege to the legion of Nissan Leaf EV owners, the company is adding a gasoline engine to it’s electric powertrain.

Not to panic! It’s not destined for the Leaf – at least not yet. Rather it’s making its debut as a variant of the Note (called Versa Note in North America) for the Japanese home market.

That model, and the powertrain itself are called ‘e-Power’. Unlike other hybrids on the market, it’s a series-hybrid system, which means the gasoline engine doesn’t drive the car’s wheels; it just powers a generator that keep’s the e-Power’s small high-output battery pack charged and provides electricity to its electric motor. Only the electric motor drives the wheels.

Nissan Note e-Power

Nissan says the Note e-Power represents the first mass-production compact segment car ever to be equipped with a series hybrid system.

Chevrolet’s Volt is also operates as a series-hybrid most of the time, but it also has the capability to provide some drive from the engine to the wheels when maximum output is called for, which makes it a parallel hybrid by definition. The Volt also differs in that it has to be plugged into an external power grid for recharging. The Note e-Power doesn’t have to be plugged in and has no plug-in capability.

Nissan e-Power drive

One of the advantages of a series-hybrid system is that the engine can be tuned to run at a relatively constant speed within its range of maximum efficiency. As with other hybrids and EVs, regenerative braking also helps to recharge the battery.

According to Nissan, e-Power delivers massive torque almost instantly, which enhances drive response and results in smooth acceleration. Also, the system operates very quietly, much like a full EV. Because e-Power relies on the engine much less frequently, its fuel efficiency is comparable to that of leading conventional hybrids, especially during around-the-town commutes. The e-Power offers all the driving benefits of an EV without having to worry about charging the battery.

Nissan e-Power drive

Detailed specifications on the engine, motor and battery pack were conspicuously absent at the Note e-Power’s unveiling other than the fact the lithium-ion battery pack is about one-twentieth the size of the Leaf’s and fits beneath the front seats.

Nissan says the e-Power’s fuel consumption is expected to be similar to that of leading conventional hybrids, of which the most prominent is the Prius.

No plans were announced for bringing the Note e-Power to North America but it is expected that of the system will be expanded to include other models and other markets outside Japan.

Nissan does already offer more-conventional hybrid versions of the Rogue, Pathfinder and Murano.

Nissan e-Power drive