Nissan’s performance arm, Nismo, is wetting its beak on electrified powertrains. Last week, the company launched the Note e-Power Nismo S — upping the model’s performance output by roughly 25 percent. Sold in Japan since December of 2016, the Note e-Power Nismo offered 109 horsepower and 187 lb-ft. The new Nismo S brings those specs to 134 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, which Nissan attributes to a tweaked inverter, modified vehicle control module, increased electrical output and an improved reduction drive.
While it’s likely never going to come to North America, there’s a good reason for it to remain on your radar. Nissan is aiming for 1 million sales of fully electric and e-Power vehicles annually by 2022. It’s also going to expand its e-Power system to Infiniti in 2021 and intends to start sending them in our general direction.
After a year’s worth of build-up, Nissan has finally confirmed it will bring its backward-working “e-Power” series hybrid system to the United States. Unlike a conventional hybrid, e-Power drivetrains use an internal combustion engine to generate electricity for an exceptionally small battery. However, the gas-burner doesn’t also drive the wheels — it only runs at a constant speed to charge the battery pack. All propulsion is handled by an electric motor, making the internal combustion unit a full-time “range extender.”
According to the automaker, the end result is a car with the characteristics of a battery-electric vehicle with an exceptional range and no slow-charging plug-in requirements. Cars using the e-Power system don’t even come with an electrical port. Nissan was spotted testing a few Notes equipped with the system last year in Michigan — presumably to get them ready for the North American market. But, despite e-Power seeming like the perfect way to create a low-cost EV (the bizarro hybrid Note retails for $19,000 in Japan), executives are suggesting the technology will initially arrive on higher-priced nameplates.
Nissan has created a strange new backwards working hybrid powerplant that includes an internal combustion engine but doesn’t use it to drive the wheels at all.
It’s called e-Power, it’s going to be in the Japanese-market Note first, and it’s essentially a Nissan Leaf that you don’t ever plug in. It also keeps the oil companies somewhat happy. Allow me to explain…
Making a “cheap” car is a tried and true formula for most auto makers. Making a car with a low sticker and a solid value proposition is tough. Not only do you have to keep the starting price low, but you have to worry about fuel economy, maintenance, insurance and everything that goes into an ownership experience. Reviewing cars that focus heavily on value is even trickier. Indeed a number of buff-book journalists were offended by the Versa Sedan’s plastics, lack of features and small engine. My response was simple: what do you expect of the cheapest car in America? Trouble is, the Versa Note isn’t the cheapest hatchback in America, so this review is about that elusive quality: value.
I seem to be the only car guy with a soft spot for the Versa. My peers at Car and Driver, Consumer Reports and Autoblog (among others) came off less than impressed by the least expensive car in America when we were all invited to its launch. That left me scratching my head. S o I borrowed another one and came to the same conclusion: “Versa delivers a totally unobjectionable experience at a very compelling price.” This apparent disconnect bothered me for a while but I wrote it off as a “lack of perspective” suffered by my peers in the biz. Seriously guys, what do you expect out of the cheapest car in America? The new 2014 Versa Note however isn’t the cheapest car in America, nor is it the cheapest hatch in America. How does it stack up? Nissan flew me to San Diego to find out.
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