By on October 24, 2019


The Nissan Ariya Concept seen Wednesday at the Tokyo Motor Show will likely become a reality with little change in outward appearance, but you don’t need a sit-down with a group of Nissan engineers to figure that out. While the company admits an EV crossover is in the cards for the coming year (probably 2021 for the U.S.), the vehicle’s internals remain something of a mystery.

Shedding some light on the vehicle’s underbody bits, the Nissan engineers also opened up on a potentially revolutionary battery technology — as well as a detail that could help hesitant American drivers get behind the wheel of a (mostly) electric vehicle.

As reported by Automotive News, engineers speaking at Nissan’s tech center said the twin-motor AWD system found beneath the Ariya and a range of future products got its start beneath a Nissan Leaf test mule.

The prototype powertrain utilized twin 160-kilowatt motors front and aft, motivating each axle and drawing current from a 62 kWh battery pack sourced from the Leaf Plus. Models born from the joint Nissan-Renault dedicated architecture will use a different battery pack with different range and output, said lead system engineer Toshiyuki Nakajima.

In production vehicles, the system will meticulously tailor power delivery to the front and rear motors, with the brakes intervening to calm individual wheels in turns, he added. The project’s been underway for three years, with the home stretch apparently in sight.

Interestingly, Nakajima said the system can pair with something Americans might appreciate: Nissan’s e-Power system, which utilizes a continuously-running gasoline generator to provide current for the electric motors.

Nissan E-POWER

Already on sale in Japan, e-Power is expected to appear in Nissan and Infiniti vehicles in the near future. More efficient than having a gas engine power the drive wheels, e-Power is a novel take on the conventional hybrid. With this setup, torque-rich electric motors do all of the motivating, while nervous owners never have to worry about a battery pack running dry or finding a charging station. It’s like a range extender that never stops running. Another benefit is greatly reduced battery costs for that particular vehicle, and thus a lower sticker price.

The compatibility between the two-motor EV system and e-Power would allow Nissan to field BEV and gas-fired EV versions of models derived from the new platform.

As for batteries, Nissan has hopped on a bandwagon already populated by the likes of Toyota, among others. Hoping to increase energy density in EV battery packs while lowering overall costs, the engineers working on solid-state batteries also aim to reduce the size of today’s huge underfloor lithium-ion sleds. Don’t hold your breath, though.

As big as a breakthrough as solid-state batteries would be, it won’t be coming to a vehicle near you anytime soon. Even with the help of partners, Nissan doesn’t expect solid-state batteries in production vehicles until near the end of a 10-year window, according to Atsushi Teraji, the brand’s deputy general manager of powertrain and EV engineering.

[Images: Nissan]

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17 Comments on “Nissan Charging Forward on Electric AWD, Solid-state Batteries...”

  • avatar

    The ‘continuously running gasoline generator’ is what turns me off. This is 100-year-old technology only JUST being brought to cars? This is what the Volt should have been, 10 years ago. Battery technology has made such interim technologies irrelevant if the vehicles is more likely to be used as a city car.

    • 0 avatar

      Vulpine, The ‘continuously running gasoline generator’ is what turns me off.

      That’s pretty much in line with how GM’s Volt works once the battery falls below a certain level. Volt’s gas engine only runs to charge the battery and has do direct-drive function, like in the Prius.

      And a Volt going uphill on US82 near where I used to live, sound like a screaming banshee, coming and going, with the Doppler effect kicking in. (Just like a freight train blowing its horns).

      • 0 avatar

        Kind of my point, hdc. If you followed the original reporting of the Volt during the design stage, they did everything wrong and took off into unheard-of directions–such as a custom 3-cylinder engine concept to power the generator and ultimately choosing an off-the-shelf 4 after something like two years of trying to make the 3-cyl develop enough power to stay ahead of the drain. At least the Mazda is looking at a rotary “range extender” but this thing is is so many ways a “pre-Volt” idea, 10+ years after the Volt.

        • 0 avatar

          Vulpine, I did not follow the original development of the Volt because I had no personal interest in EVs.

          However, two friends at my church did ask my opinion about The Volt, as they referred to it, and I told them that it was similar to the Prius, except the Volt had a longer battery-only range and the Volt did not use the ICE for direct drive through a CVT, like the Prius does.

          End result was, they each actually bought a Volt, but it was more as a show car, a trophy, or a social statement, and not their main transportation.

          The wives continued to drive their ICE vehicle, the husbands continued to drive their pickup trucks.

          Biggest complaint was, the Volt was too small. Especially so for girthy people.

      • 0 avatar

        My understanding of the Volt is that once the batteries are discharged, the engine will keep them only minimally charged, to get you where you’re going (a “range-extender”). The car needs to be plugged in to fully recharge the batteries. The Nissan e-Power system, with its continually-running engine – at a consistent rpm – perpetually charges the batteries, so that the vehicle never needs to be plugged in, yet is always using only its electric motors for propulsion (the Volt WILL use it’s engine, at times, for motive power). That is a critical difference for the large percentage of the population who have no access to home charging.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed. The Volt outlived its time and was killed off, but the Bolt lives on.

      EV range extenders are the modern equivalent of the vacuum-laden carburetors of the late 70s – a complex bandaid eagerly awaiting a better solution. In the 1980s, the better solution was found to be electronic fuel injection; today it’s the long-range BEV.

  • avatar

    A Leaf with twin 160 kW motors would be absolutely hilarious.

  • avatar

    The “Solid State” batteries is what caught my attention. That would a giant leap forward.

    But, alas, a 10 year window? Much of technology tends to obsolete itself within 3-5 years! Just look how far we have come in cell-phone battery tech, or solid-state devices, or fuel-cell development, or ……..

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota will be unveiling their solid-state battery car as part of the olympic opening ceremonies this summer. Solid-states are here now. Just not in large-scale mass production yet.

      • 0 avatar

        I understand that both cost and instability is currently a concern, but not impossible to overcome in the near future. We may even see these things outside of residences, like a battery wall for solar/wind storage. once they get the bugs worked out of them.

        As I wrote before elsewhere in other threads, I am interested in buying a BEV truck, maybe a Rivian, for local, short distance use. El Paso is adapting to more and more EVs for local running around, and Charging Stations are popping up.

        Every McDonalds has always had at least a couple of 120v outlets available at some of their parking spaces, as well as USB ports inside their dining area, but more hotels are adding vehicle charging stations that are open for public use, free if you are staying there.

        So solid-state batteries are yet another step in the longevity of EVs in America.

        (I asked the night manager at a Hilton where we were staying how much it costs to put in a Charging Station, and he told me $2500 for the actual unit, and more to have it installed, run electrical lines, meet local permit mandates, etc.)

        • 0 avatar

          There’s a hotel I stay at in Vermont and since I’m staying overnight, I skip their level 3 and level 2 chargers and plug into their 120v outlets. 120v outlets, especially a 20 amp with an adjustable charger aren’t bad for charging if you’re going to be there for a while. The best are the campgrounds with 220v outlets. I have a portable level 2 charger that I can bring with me camping. In fact, campgrounds are my emergency backups in sparsely populated areas without official chargers. Never had to do it, but there are plenty around if I needed one.

        • 0 avatar

          > how much it costs to put in a Charging Station, and he told me $2500 for the actual unit,
          > and more to have it installed, run electrical lines, meet local permit mandates, etc.

          Call Tesla and they will provide the charging equipment for free, and not just one. They will also subsidize or pay for the install.

  • avatar

    I’d much rather live in a world where the charging infrastructure is there to get rid of the ICE altogether, with its associated maintenance, complexity, and localized pollution, than where an ICE is needed as a crutch to make an EV workable. So I’m a lot more excited to hear about new charger installations and faster fast charging than gas generators.

    Always happy to hear about battery R&D, though. We still need to cut battery prices roughly in half before EVs will be cost-competitive on a lifecycle basis for non-fleet users.

    • 0 avatar

      Here’s the Toyota article. No surprise since they’ve been filing loads of solid-state battery patents:

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