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

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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]

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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!

  • Slyons My guess is they keep the 2.0 liter they have now with minor tweaks, and shoehorn in the 48V mild hybrid system that just debuted in the CX-90. Should allow for all the regular fun of wringing out the 4 cyl and bump the fuel mileage up at least a couple points. I don't think we'll see a major evolution of the drivetrain until the next next model (NF?).
  • 28-Cars-Later " as long as internal-combustion engines exist?"So... forever until society collapses, rebuilds, and then the Hunger Games begin?
  • Jeff S It would be a neat project but the 6k should include the parts car.
  • Kcflyer Why oh why does every manufacturer slop the roof so much on vehicles that are supposed to be utilitarian? Especially a three row people mover. Let the rear roof square off like an old volvo wagon for cripes sake! And get off my lawn. And don't give me the mpg noise. I'd happily give back a couple mpg for some utility in a "utility" vehicle.
  • Varezhka KISS, just like Miata always has. No exotic powertrain options, a simple 2L NA with MT with similar power output as Mazda3 and CX-30 would best match the car; as much as I have always dreamed of a rotary powered RX-5.That said, the Miata that I actually liked and driven the most was NC. It was just practical enough and comfortable enough over long distance that I can actually use it as my DD/road trip vehicle without losing the lightweight nimble feeling. ND as nice as it is lost some of that IMHO.The only other thing I'd like would be the new MazdaConnect which is so much nicer, and a less angry face.