Despite some earlier rumors, it appears that the new Nissan Note will not be an all-electric vehicle, but rather a series hybrid — at least, that’s the case with the version that’s going to be sold in Japan.
A series hybrid, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a hybrid vehicle where the wheels are moved only by the electric drivetrain, with the gasoline/petrol engine simply charging the battery. The advantage of such a design is that maximum torque is available from a stop, as with all-electric vehicles. That means that, despite being powered by gas and not containing an electrical plug to charge the car, the performance will feel similar to that of a Nissan Leaf — up to a point. (Most other manufacturers, such as Toyota, sell parallel hybrids.)
Of note here is that there’s a good chance that this model will only be sold in Japan and similar markets. Japan currently offers fairly good financial incentives to hybrid buyers, and the Note model that sells there is fairly expensive already (as compared to the Versa Note sold in North America, which is roughly half the price), meaning that the new Note e-Power is well positioned for good sales in Japan even if not in the US.
The starting price for the new Nissan Note e-Power in Japan will reportedly be under 2,000,000 yen (~$19,500). [Update: Going by the source article, we initially wrote that 2,000,000 yen was ~$29,500. It is actually ~$19,500. Apologies, and thank you to Viking79 and Keiichiro Sakurai for the catch.]
Going by the two video ads posted in this article, Nissan seems to be marketing the model around its instant torque.
“The e-Power system allows you to enjoy all the benefits of an EV without having to worry about charging the battery.”
“You’ll love it with your foot on the pedal.”
Given that one of the things that most electric vehicle drivers mention loving about their cars is the instant torque, this isn’t surprising. Instant torque makes driving a lot more enjoyable.
Further details on the performance of the new model are sparse, but there’s a reference to the use of the same “motor” as the Leaf, which would imply 80-kilowatt output (110 horsepower).
That said, we’ve noticed considerably less enjoyable performance from plug-in hybrids compared to fully electric cars — and the story has been even worse for conventional hybrids. Part of this is simply due to battery size and the power that is available from the smaller batteries in hybrid cars. So, we’ll wait until we drive a Note e-Power to claim that it matches Nissan’s claims or not.
Green Car Reports provides more: “The Note e-Power uses a small lithium-ion battery pack, and an unspecified engine, tuned to run most efficiently at 2500 rpm, to power the generator that charges the battery. As in any hybrid or electric car, regenerative braking captures otherwise wasted energy to recharge the battery as well. Nissan says the fuel economy ratings of the Note e-Power are expected to be similar to those of ‘leading conventional hybrids.’ That’s likely a reference to the Toyota Prius, rated at 52 to 56 mpg combined in the US.”
Continuing: “The closest hint on battery size was a comment from chief powertrain engineer Naoki Nakada, who said it had been challenging to split apart the components of the powertrain and to minimize battery size. … That one-twentieth statistic likely refers to the physical dimensions and volume of the pack itself. But if applied to the 30-kilowatt-hour capacity of the current Leaf battery, it would work out to 1.5 kwh — very close to the average hybrid battery used by Toyota, Ford, and others.”
Going back to the point about instant torque, one of the video ads included statements concerning the fact that 96% of testers “loved it when they pushed the pedal,” that 91% noticed a difference in acceleration, and that 84% claimed to have “felt the future.”
Seemingly, Nissan is intending to use the model as “a gateway to 100% electric cars,” as the company puts it. Sensible I suppose, once people get a taste of the instant torque, they may be willing to give all-electrics a shot, even if they had been skeptical before. However, if the acceleration really doesn’t match a car like the Leaf (or Model S), the misleading association could actually slow a transition to EVs. In my opinion, releasing an all-electric Note for a relatively affordable price would have probably done a lot more to spur electric vehicle adoption than releasing another conventional hybrid.
The company will be rolling out the new e-Power system approach to other models in its lineup over time. The soon-to-be-released “Gripz” hatchback, for instance, will reportedly use the new approach.
Any comments from our readers on the subject? Is Nissan making a bad decision going with a series hybrid version of the Note rather than with an all-electric or at least a plug-in hybrid? I had been looking forward to the release of an all-electric Note previously, and had thought that it would probably sell quite well if priced reasonably.
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