Nissan Looks Ready to Bring E-Power to Its American Fleet

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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nissan looks ready to bring e power to its american fleet

There’s no confirmation just yet, but all signs are pointing to the eventual introduction of Nissan’s novel e-Power hybrid system in its U.S. lineup.

We say “novel” because the system isn’t like any gas-electric setup currently on the road. Think of it as a way to cheaply reduce emissions without the worries of limited electric range or the expense of bulky battery packs. Instead, think of the car as a little ship.

Many Western navies field frigates and destroyers with integrated electric propulsion (IEP), meaning a diesel engine or gas turbine acts as a generator to power the ship’s electric motors, with no mechanical connection between the propellers (think drive wheels) and the fossil fuel-burning powerplants.

That’s essentially how Nissan’s e-Power system operates, only with the generator’s juice entering a small battery before reaching the electric motor. Launched in Japan last year in the Versa Note hatchback, the e-Power system uses a 1.2-liter three-cylinder that hums along at 2,500 rpm. There’s no plug-in capability, and the car’s battery is one-twentieth the size of that found in the company’s first-generation Leaf.

However, because electric motors generate maximum torque from a standstill, the Note e-Power isn’t as much of a slouch as other small cars.

Automotive News has now spotted two e-Power Notes — one a U.S. model, the other right-hand drive — plying the roadways of Michigan with two hybrid competitors in tow. Earlier this year, a Nissan executive said e-Power would be a good fit outside of Japan, with the automaker ready to position it alongside more expensive conventional hybrids and electrics.

The selling point of e-Power is as much about price as it is about fuel economy. Sure, it’s not as stingy at the pump as some compact hybrids (Japan rates it at 77 mpg, to the Prius hybrid’s 96 mpg), but its simple method of operation means it can undercut the competition in sticker price. With a new Leaf bowing for 2018, having e-Power at the bottom of the lineup would bolster Nissan’s growing green cred.

[Image: Nissan]

Steph Willems
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  • Wstarvingteacher Wstarvingteacher on Nov 14, 2017

    Spent a few years on diesel electric submarines and am only surprised that it took so long. I have no insight on why gas versus diesel probably $s are involved. I always bring up the "amazing 75mpg car" that you can find in mother earth magazine archives or just google using the words in quotes. The concept is so simple that I did a class project along that line while still in the working world. Have been a Nissan/Toyota fanboi for years. Glad they are both going to be in the mix.

    • DC Bruce DC Bruce on Nov 14, 2017

      The question is what are the power losses associated with conversion of gasoline energy to electricity. Interestingly, while US WW2 vintage submarines ran exclusively with motor/generators (based on diesel-electric railway locomotive technology of the time), German U-Boats and even postwar British submarines had the capability of directly connecting their diesel engines to the propellor shafts. If you get to Portsmouth England, there's a post-war British diesel electric submarine (completely dry docked) that is available for tour, and the tour guides are retired Royal Navy submariners. Well worth the trip if you're interested in that sort of thing. The time I went through, last Christmas, the guide had actually served on that sub.

  • YellowDuck YellowDuck on Nov 15, 2017

    I've wondered for years if this might be the most sensible configuration. The actual hp you use, averaged over time, is pretty low. It just doesn't take that much power to push a car through the atmosphere at a constant speed - maybe 20 hp for a small car at highway speed. So in theory all you need is an engine that can do a little better than that (divided by the conversion efficiency to electricity, maybe's pretty good) to drive a generator, and a battery big enough to help you up slopes and during acceleration. No mechanical connection between engine and wheels, just a simple electric motor and very simple transmission. High efficiency at low cost. And no range anxiety unless, say, you are traversing a mountain range!

  • Parkave231 I'd rather they remember how to manufacture the things they have before adding more trims and options.
  • SCE to AUX "as if 775 lb-ft of torque in a pickup isn’t enough"Exactly. How about doing something hard instead, like getting your electric truck to meet 'truck' expectations first? That would sell better than a Raptor-like truck.
  • Akear They sell only 20,000 Mustang EVs a year. They better keep the current Mustang!
  • Jkross22 We're thinking about the 500e all wrong. This is a 'new' old car. All of the tooling and R&D is done. Easy way to move an 'Italian' car up market and boost fleet MPG. Plus... dealers can move all unsold models into demo/fleet usage so when Jeep and Durango owners come in for service, they can use this as a loaner.
  • Namesakeone Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. A light truck coming from Ford. We have never seen anything like it. (This is me trying to sound like I'm excited.)