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

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
join the club infiniti becomes the latest automaker to go electric

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]

Join the conversation
2 of 5 comments
  • 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?

  • SCE to AUX Good summary, Matt.I like EVs, but not bans, subsidies, or carbon credits. Let them find their own level.PM Sunak has done a good thing, but I'm surprised at how sensibly early he made the call. Hopefully they'll ban the ban altogether.
  • SCE to AUX "Having spoken to plenty of suppliers over the years, many have told me they tried to adapt to EV production only to be confronted with inconsistent orders."Lofty sales predictions followed by reality.I once worked (very briefly) for a key supplier to Segway, back when "Ginger" was going to change the world. Many suppliers like us tooled up to support sales in the millions, only to sell thousands - and then went bankrupt.
  • SCE to AUX "all-electric vehicles, resulting in a scenario where automakers need fewer traditional suppliers"Is that really true? Fewer traditional suppliers, but they'll be replaced with other suppliers. You won't have the myriad of parts for an internal combustion engine and its accessories (exhaust, sensors), but you still have gear reducers (sometimes two or three), electric motors with lots of internal components, motor mounts, cooling systems, and switchgear.Battery packs aren't so simple, either, and the fire recalls show that quality control is paramount.The rest of the vehicle is pretty much the same - suspension, brakes, body, etc.
  • Theflyersfan As crazy as the NE/Mid-Atlantic I-95 corridor drivers can be, for the most part they pay attention and there aren't too many stupid games. I think at times it's just too crowded for that stuff. I've lived all over the US and the worst drivers are in parts of the Midwest. As I've mentioned before, Ohio drivers have ZERO lane discipline when it comes to cruising, merging, and exiting. And I've just seen it in this area (Louisville) where many drivers have literally no idea how to merge. I've never seen an area where drivers have no problems merging onto an interstate at 30 mph right in front of you. There are some gruesome wrecks at these merge points because it looks like drivers are just too timid to merge and speed up correctly. And the weaving and merging at cloverleaf exits (which in this day and age need to all go away) borders on comical in that no one has a bloody clue of let car merge in, you merge right to exit, and then someone repeats behind you. That way traffic moves. Not a chance here.And for all of the ragging LA drivers get, I found them just fine. It's actually kind of funny watching them rearrange themselves like after a NASCAR caution flag once traffic eases up and they line up, speed up to 80 mph for a few miles, only to come to a dead halt again. I think they are just so used to the mess of freeways and drivers that it's kind of a "we'll get there when we get there..." kind of attitude.
  • Analoggrotto I refuse to comment until Tassos comments.