Nissan’s e-Power hybrids may go global

on May13

In Japan, buyers have taken to the Nissan Note with e-Power.

SHANGHAI — Nissan Motor Co.’s best-selling hybrid system is virtually unknown outside Japan. But it might soon challenge the Toyota Prius overseas, just as it does at home.

Nissan introduced its e-Power extended-range hybrid setup in November in Japan as a powertrain option for the Note subcompact hatchback, which sells in the U.S. as the Versa Note.

In hybrid-crazy Japan, e-Power has been a surprise hit. Adding the option catapulted the once-ho-hum Note to the top of the country’s sales chart in January, besting the rival Prius, the longtime standard-bearer for Japanese hybrids and one of Japan’s best-selling nameplates.

Nissan now thinks it can replicate that success overseas.

“It is a technology that clearly can fit outside Japan in all the key markets,” said Daniele Schillaci, Nissan’s executive vice president in charge of global marketing and sales, last month at the Shanghai auto show. “We are thinking about moving forward faster on electrification, not only in pure EVs, but also in this e-Power technology.”

The fuel-saving system is similar to that used in the Chevrolet Volt. In the Note e-Power, a 1.2-liter, three-cylinder engine acts as an electricity generator that charges a lithium ion battery. The battery then powers an electric motor, which turns the wheels.

But unlike the Volt, Nissan’s e-Power cannot be charged with an external plug. The system saves fuel because the engine continually operates at its sweet spot to generate electricity, instead of revving up and down through rpms to power the wheels.

Under Japan’s fuel economy testing regime, the Note e-Power achieves up to 32.7 kilometers per liter (77 mpg), just shy of the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid’s 87.5 mpg and the regular Prius’ 96 mpg, when measured by the same standard.

Schillaci offered no details about possible overseas introduction plans. But he was confident that e-Power’s benefits would not be lost in translation overseas: “When a technology is successful, it is natural for us to seek something a bit wider.”

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