Nissan's 'e-Power' Hybrid System is a Strange Combination of Good and Evil

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
nissans 8216 e power hybrid system is a strange combination of good and evil

Nissan has created a strange new backwards working hybrid powerplant that includes an internal combustion engine but doesn’t use it to drive the wheels at all.

It’s called e-Power, it’s going to be in the Japanese-market Note first, and it’s essentially a Nissan Leaf that you don’t ever plug in. It also keeps the oil companies somewhat happy. Allow me to explain…

Traditional hybrids have an internal combustion engine supported by an electric motor that draws power from a battery. During braking the electric motor switches roles to charge the power source. However, some hybrids do offer forward momentum provided by both the ICE and electric motor — either by working together or trading on and off.

However, Nissan’s e-Powered cars don’t use the combustion engine for direct propulsion at all. Instead, the gas-powered 1.2-liter three-cylinder works as a generator to charge a battery used to power the electric motor. The electric motor provides all of the forward locomotion.

The end result delivers the better characteristics of an electric vehicle without some of the drawbacks.

The lithium-ion battery in the e-powered Note is only one-twentieth of the size of the battery on the all-electric Leaf. It’s so small that Nissan has managed to wedge it under the front seats without sacrificing much meaningful cabin space.

A vehicle equipped with e-Power doesn’t require plug-in charging. Instead, the gas motor hums along at an optimized 2,500 rpm, powering a generator that continuously charges the battery.

Conspicuously missing from this series hybrid is the fully-electric capability seen on similar vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt. Even though the battery is relatively small, you’d still expect an electrical port and the ability to do away with gasoline for limited distances. The upcoming Toyota Prius Prime offers one and, when taken advantage of, offers some all-electric driving. Of course, a smaller battery means less cost, which is key for an entry-level model like the Note.

Or, maybe Renault-Nissan just hasn’t had enough time to benefit from its Mitsubishi takeover and that company’s plug-in hybrid technology.

Regardless, Nissan suggests fuel economy ratings of the Note e-Power will remain similar the conventional hybrids currently on the market. It also promises the Note to be more of a laugh to drive. With the instantly accessible torque of an EV, Nissan is making a big deal of the system’s driving enjoyment. The Japanese marketing slogan for the e-Power is, “You’ll love it with your foot on the pedal.”

I assume they are referring to the throttle.

The Note e-Power X is listed in Japan at 1,959,120 Yen, which equates to around $19,000 U.S. — less than a base model Toyota Prius.

[Images: Nissan]

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3 of 28 comments
  • Voyager Voyager on Nov 03, 2016

    Why not have the ICE 'interface' directly with the electric motor, like Aquarius Motors from Israel and Toyota has been working on? No need for batteries, and an efficiency, reportedly, that's at least twice that with a conventional ICE propulsion. Or leave a battery big enough for 10 miles of inner city driving. That should cover most errand runs, in case the owner is too lazy to take the bicycle.

    • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Nov 03, 2016

      Sorry but no way is a ICE-generator-motor-wheels set up going to double the efficiency of a conventional system particularly if there isn't a battery involved. What you describe is pretty much what the current Accord Hybrid uses with a clutch to connect the generator and motor at higher speeds. W/o the clutch engaged the system works more or less as a CVT replacing the frictional losses with the conversion losses and then eliminating most of the losses once that clutch is engaged.

  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Nov 03, 2016

    This is just the same thing the Karma did years ago, right?

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