By on June 14, 2018

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Whether the buying public likes it or not, there’s a tsunami of electrified powertrains headed for U.S. shores. Automakers the world over hope to beat their rivals in the race to a “fully electrified” lineup, which just means there’ll be — at a minimum — a hybrid variant in each model line.

It’s far less sexy than headlines make it sound. Still, if you’re into technology and saving money at the pumps (not necessarily at the dealer), it’s hot stuff. Nissan’s taking an unconventional route in this race, forgoing a conventional hybrid setup for an inexpensive stopgap solution all its own.

The system, called e-Power, is already a hit in Japan. But before it makes its way into high-end Nissan products (read: Infiniti), it first needs to upsize the system for American-sized vehicles travelling at American-sized speeds. That’s not as easy as it sounds.

e-Power combine an electric motor and a conventional gasoline engine, but, unlike a normal hybrid, the two powerplants do not take turns handling propulsion duties. The continuously running ICE (operating at a fixed rpm) continuously feeds a small battery via a generator, which in turns powers the electric motor that drives the wheels. Propulsion always comes from the electric motor, but the battery’s juice always comes from an ICE. (A small amount of energy is recaptured via regenerative braking.)

Image: Nissan

Launched in Japan in late 2016, the little Nissan Note e-Power hatchback utilizes a 1.2-liter four-cylinder running at a constant 2,500 rpm for its electricity generation. The automaker claims 70 percent of Note buyers in that market choose e-Power, making the vehicle line quite a profitable one. Nissan has since added e-Power to a midsize minivan.

Unfortunately, flitting around the crowded urban streets of Japan is a very different situation than intercity travel in Europe or the United States. For the vehicle to be ultra efficient, the engine needs to operate at an optimum speed. However, sustained high-speed cruising would deplete the battery faster than the engine/generator could replenish it.

This is what Nissan’s trying to figure out as it contemplates launching e-Power in Europe — and whatever lessons learned on the continent will surely be applied to the U.S., where Nissan promises e-Power availability in the near future. Its Infiniti division plans to go “electrified” by 2021, and it’s much easier to hide additional powertrain costs in a pricier vehicle’s sticker.

Ponz Pandikuthira, Nissan’s vice-president of product planning, told Automotive News Europe that “Japanese driving rewards e-Power,” but the equation falls apart outside the city. Still, the system’s efficiency still tops that of diesel propulsion by 10 to 15 percent, he said. Because of the  system’s benefits, it seems Nissan plans to do whatever’s necessary to adapt it to Western roads.

“EPower is far less expensive to execute than a plug-in hybrid because you don’t have the extra costs and 400 kg of the battery weight,” Pandikuthira said, calling e-Power “a great bridge technology.”

Testing is ongoing at Nissan’s UK R&D facility with a Nissan Altima outfitted with a 2.4-liter engine/generator, he added.

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29 Comments on “Before e-Power Makes It Here, Nissan First Has to Send It to the Gym...”


  • avatar
    theBrandler

    This really shouldn’t be too hard. Cruising down the highway takes between 40 and 60 horsepower. That’s a trivial amount to produce, even for a 1 liter engine. You might need two cam profiles to keep things cheaper and simpler than variable valve timing, but it should still be pretty damn easy to make one cam profile that runs perfectly at, say, 2500rpm for the city, and then another for 3500rpms for the highway. Use the right sound absorption for those two specific frequencies and it should be a quiet and efficient ride.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Even less than that! Check out the calculator at

      http://ecomodder.com/forum/showthread.php/how-much-hp-highway-speed-8583.html

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        golden2husky, at some point just for fun I purchased a bluetooth OBDII dongle and the torque app for my dash-mounted Lenovo yoga tab [$20 or so for both]. I was SHOCKED to see just how little horsepower I was using driving around even under moderate throttle.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      And another likely, and fun possibility is that the electric motor can be capable of far more horsepower than the gas motor for brief passing and acceleration duties.

  • avatar
    GregLocock

    ” The automaker claims 70 percent of Note buyers in that market choose e-Power, making the vehicle line quite a profitable one.”

    Assuming they didn’t make the second claim, then no, don’t mistake volume for profit. For references see GM, Ford, Chrysler.

  • avatar
    redgolf

    Somebody help me! so it’s gonna run on a constant supply of gas to supply power to the battery unlike the Chevy Volt which can run on electric only if only traveling what 50 miles? it’s just a fuel sipper gas engine then?

    • 0 avatar
      Erikstrawn

      The engine can be tuned to run at a single most fuel efficient speed. A smaller battery can be used to capture the electricity produced and feed it to the wheels as the gas pedal dictates. Braking regenerates and tops off the battery. The end result is a much more efficient use of the energy extracted from the gasoline.

      Ever since the first hybrids came out I wondered why they didn’t design them this way. This is how locomotives have worked for more than half a century.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Conversion losses. A Volt-style hybrid is the most efficient setup, though Nissan’s setup is simpler and less costly.

        • 0 avatar
          car driver

          Nissan system is more efficient, there is no difference between the two setup, except nissan uses a buffer battery, further more nissan engine is a fixed RPM, cycle on and off, off when battery is full and on when battery is depleted,that where nissan is efficient, volt runs continuously powering a generator.

        • 0 avatar
          car driver

          just forget to say the buffer battery give the engine a 3-5 miles break which engine is off, that how nissan is more efficient, as volt battery deplete it has no where to turn but to continue used it engine as power source.

    • 0 avatar
      car driver

      no, the engine uses gas, but it not running continuously, the e-power system current in Japan the engine cycle on and off, the average range from battery is 3-5 miles for the note, almost 2 miles for the serena minivan, so the engine will be off for 3 miles for example, as soon as the battery deplete the engine turns back on, turn a generator which charge and also provide power for motor, once the battery is full, the engine is off again while the motor take power from battery for a next 3 miles.

  • avatar

    What’s the point? Still has a gas engine. Nothing new here. Doesn’t Volt work the same way?

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      No, the Volt can turn the gas engine off, and also use it to drive the wheels. This is actually the best idea since it doesn’t really involve any more complexity in the drivetrain.

      • 0 avatar
        car driver

        nissan can also turn gas engine off, when battery is full, the engine does not runs continuously, it runs at constant rpm when turn on to charge battery or when more power is need like going up hill, but the engine is not constantly on, it off when battery is charge.

    • 0 avatar
      car driver

      no they do not, the nissan engine cycle on and off, on when battery is depleted or more power needed, off when battery is full, it has to connection to the wheels, the volt engine is constant on, turns the wheel in some situation.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    They can fake a moon landing yet they can’t make a practical electric car. Go figure.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    I am asking this because I really don”t know the answer, but isn’t this what a diesel locomotive does ? If I understand it correctly, the diesel engines run generators which drive the wheels via electric motors. If so,
    Nissan should contact the locomotive manufacturers. For advice.

    • 0 avatar
      CarnotCycle

      Diesel locomotives are pure series hybrids – which is what this vehicle is. Trains run that way because electric motors replace all the torque one loses trading old-timey steam for diesels. Most Tesla Model S’s are ultimately Rube Goldberg series hybrids if one counts the boiler-steam or gas turbines that power them.

      • 0 avatar
        KitaIkki

        No. Diesel-electric locomotives don’t have batteries and their engines don’t run at fixed RPM.

      • 0 avatar
        Ce he sin

        Not all diesel trains run this way though! Locos are diesel electric but multiple units (engines under the coaches, no loco) are very often diesel hydraulic (multiple torque converters and fluid couplings) or in the case of the newer models have conventional automatic transmissions.

    • 0 avatar
      Ce he sin

      No advice needed. Diesel electric locos don’t use batteries – they use only the engine to provide power. This arrangement is used because it copes well with the power and torque involved even though it’s inefficient. Diesel multiple units (those trains with multiple underfloor engines rather than a loco) are very often diesel hydraulic (multiple torque converters and fluid couplings) because it’s cheaper, lighter and was more efficient although I think that modern AC gear has improved things.
      Nissan’s system involves an engine that runs intermittently and keeps the battery topped up. There are reviews on you tube.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I asked these same questions when this system was initially announced…. glad to know I’m not crazy

    10-20% more efficient than a diesel…. isn’t that what regular hybrids do?

    • 0 avatar
      car driver

      The current e-power system that used in japan is way efficient than that because it most city driving speed,Japan speed is much lower than Europe and USA which have 70 to 100 MPH, the system that they are currently testing (2.5 liter engine) is what is 10% to 20% more efficient than diesel in highway drives, and it is also cheaper to manufacture than regular hybrids.Next thing too, motor have quicker acceleration, than engine assist by motor in regular hybrids, so it have some advantage.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    AHA ! Thank you, Best & Brightest !

  • avatar
    conundrum

    This is what a BMW i3 turns into when the biggish battery runs down and the Mighty Powerhouse 700cc two cylinder “range extender” allows you to mope along to a charging station.

    There’s zero to see here technically. Nothing at all. It’s a Mark 1 series hybrid system chosen by no one else for an obvious reason. It only works properly in city traffic. On the highway, a gas engine encumbered by driving a generator as well as a battery driving an electric motor both involve energy conversion losses that a straight gear drive avoids. In town you can juggle things about for a gain.

    GM’s mild hybrid from 2008 on, and the new German 48V hybrid system, also picked up by Chrysler for the new V6 RAM, are somewhere between Mark 0 and Mark 1. All pimples on the path of progress, but no doubt soon to be deified by overenthusiastic PR donkeys trained to bray appropriately as if the world had been transmogrified for the better in a startling way. What they really do is provide a darn good fast start in a stop/start system, or drive an engine for a few seconds to cover up low rpm main turbo lag, still not really covered up by all these new designs.

    • 0 avatar
      car driver

      Not exactly, nissan system is a range extender that behaves like a regular hybrid, something more similar to the new honda hybrid system in the insight, because it has a buffer battery and the engine RPM is constant, volt and the I3 does not a carry a buffer battery. The buffer battery in the e-power allow it to shut it engine off for 3-5 miles in the note after each charge, and only come back on when the battery need charge or the car need help going up hills, it takes no time to recharge the battery, when done, the engine is shut off. The I3 and the volt has there engine constantly running.


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