Join the Club: Infiniti Becomes the Latest Automaker to Go 'Electric'

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

There’s that misleading word again. At this week’s North American International Auto Show, Infiniti promised it would only field new products featuring some sort of electrified propulsion starting in 2021, thus joining half the automotive universe in promising an “electric” future.

In reality, this means each new model appearing after the target date will launch with at least a hybrid variant in tow. In Infiniti’s case, it means a handful of fully electric vehicles, plus the use of a novel Nissan technology that sees a gasoline engine running at all times.

Showing the inherent danger of the English language, Infiniti’s announcement claims “electric” vehicles will make up more than half of the brand’s global sales by 2025. A few paragraphs later, the promise switches to “electrified” vehicles. That’s enough semantics for now; take note that the latter statement is the correct one.

Infiniti’s promise comes as the automaker parades around its Q Inspiration concept vehicle (pictured above), a curvaceous midsize sedan that telegraphs Infiniti’s future design direction. Appearing under the Q Inspiration’s hood is the brand’s innovative VC-Turbo variable compression four-cylinder engine, bound first for the 2019 QX50 crossover. The compact engine apparently affords the car an airy cabin worthy of the full-size class.

Amazing — a futuristic concept car powered by gasoline. Sadly, this svelte, pillarless, rear-drive sedan, complete with knee-weakening suicide doors, is exactly the type of vaporware that never sees the light of a showroom. As well, the sedan segment’s Lusitania-like sales trajectory does nothing to alleviate our pessimism. It’s possible the future popularity of electric vehicles (still an uncertain thing) will make such a vehicle viable as a green luxury halo car, but time will tell.

Still, Infiniti’s Q Inspiration is more than just a range-topping concept. There’s a “proposed” platform beneath it, one that anticipates “the impending adoption of more advanced forms of propulsion,” Infiniti claims. The brand’s designer, Karim Habib, tells Autocar that an electric Q Inspiration variant is very doable.

The brand definitely needs new bones if it expects to package an electric motor and big battery pack into numerous new models. As for the “electrified” models, Infiniti’s tapping Nissan’s e-Power system for those.

e-Power involves a small gasoline engine — running at a set speed — that charges the battery powering the vehicle’s electric drive motor. The ICE and drive wheels never mix. It’s a fairly simple setup that offers fuel savings combined with the torquey, linear acceleration of an electric car, only with less cost and complexity than a traditional hybrid or plug-in hybrid. Indeed, the first e-Power vehicle offered for sale was the lowly, Japanese-market Nissan Versa Note.

[Image: Infiniti]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Sportyaccordy Sportyaccordy on Jan 18, 2018

    I think sedans can recapture the market's attention but manufacturers are going to have to go all in on design and innovation. No more stodgy iterative write in nonsense. They have to start trying again.

  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Jan 18, 2018

    Aren't front ends of cars supposed to be "pedestrian friendly"(or as friendly as getting hit by a car can be)? That front end looks like a combo wood-chipper/snowblower. How is that better than a cowcatcher that breaks your ankles and throws you into the windshield?

  • 28-Cars-Later "Here's why" edition_cnn_com/2018/06/13/health/falling-iq-scores-study-intl/index.html
  • 28-Cars-Later Seriously, $85. GM Delta I is burning hot garbage to the point where the 1990 Saturn Z-body is leagues better. My mother inherited an '07 Ion with 30Kish otc which was destroyed in 2014 by a tipsy driver with a suspended license (driver's license enforcement is a joke in Pennsyltucky). Insurance paid out $6,400 when it was only worth about $5,800 IIRC, but sure 10 year later the "hipo" Delta I can fetch how much?
  • Buickman styling does not overcome powertrain, follow the money. labor/materials.
  • VoGhost It's funny, until CDK raises their prices to cover the cost. And then the stealerships do even more stealing because they're certainly not taking the hit - why do you think they make all those political donations? So who pays in the end?
  • VoGhost I was talking today to a guy who pulled up in an '86 Camry. Said it ran like a top, got 30 mpg, the AC was ice cold and everywhere he goes, people ask to buy it. He seemed happy.