Let's take a deep dive into Nissan's coolest tech.
All of Nissan's models will be electrified by the early 2030s. That was the statement from the Japanese automaker back in January, but it has been working on reducing its carbon footprint well before that. It sped up with the Nissan Note compact car in 2016, which used a technology called e-Power.
Now in its second generation, Nissan called the updated e-Power system a "gasoline engine breakthrough" in February as it reached 50% thermal efficiency when most engines are around 20%. But what is e-Power?
Basically, it's a powertrain that features a small (1.2-liter) gasoline engine/generator that exists only to charge a battery. Most systems use both the engine and electric motor to drive the wheels but with e-Power, the engine charges a battery, which powers an electric motor, moving the car. e-Power offers one-pedal driving, which means as you let off the accelerator, the car will come to a stop. It seems weird at first, but on other hybrids, we found it easy to get used to.
After the Note, Nissan installed the system in its Serena minivan in 2018, followed by the new Kicks in June 2020. The 2019 Note got the second-gen system, which also found a home in the European market Qashqai, known here as Rogue Sport. It also introduced the tech to China at the latest Shanghai Auto Show.
Nissan started with its smaller vehicles for several reasons. One, they're small and already efficient. You don't need a huge battery to get the Note up to speed. But really, it's about studying buyers and trying to hit its carbon goals, and sometimes that means the US gets left out.
"We carefully consider customer needs and trends for all of our model offerings in each market. Nissan has set the goal to achieve carbon neutrality across the company's operations and the life cycle of its products by 2050," a Nissan rep said to CarBuzz. "As part of this effort, by the early 2030s, every all-new Nissan vehicle offering in key markets will be electrified. For Nissan, electric vehicles and e-Power vehicles represent two interconnected pillars of resource-efficient, emissions-reducing technologies from which customers can choose depending on their needs and lifestyles."
Though the e-Power system is 100% electric motor driven, and the engine is used mainly to power the battery pack, "it can also provide electrical energy to the inverter when power demand is high." As you can see in the picture above, energy goes from the engine, to the power generator, then the battery, inverter, motor and then wheels.
Nissan says there are four key customer benefits to the e-Power system: powerful and smooth acceleration, a new level of excitement and control, a quiet relaxing drive, and fuel efficiency without compromise.
"With precise electric motor control, e-Power delivers powerful and smooth acceleration when needed. e-Power allows drivers to accelerate and decelerate using only the accelerator pedal," said a Nissan rep. "Because it's powered by a battery pack, the e-Power system is quieter than a traditional gasoline-powered car. The system's gasoline engine charges the battery pack mainly at higher cruising speeds and on rougher road surfaces, when road noise helps mask engine sound."
"For maximum fuel efficiency, the onboard gasoline engine runs at an optimal speed to charge the battery pack when needed. When the car is decelerating, regenerative braking can also charge the battery pack, further enhancing efficiency and lowering emissions," said Nissan.
Nissan also noted that because it can just throw an electric motor on an axle (it's probably more difficult than that), it can provide front-, all-, and rear-wheel-drive layouts.
So why isn't e-Power in the US now? Nissan won't tell us. And "it won't comment on future product," a common line that automakers throw out when we ask too many questions. The company does have the second-generation Leaf on sale now, which sports a range of 150-226 miles. The bigger Nissan Ariya crossover is coming later this year too. That has either a 65- or 90-kWh battery, for a range of about 275 or 370 miles, respectively.
So, Nissan EV buyers are pretty much covered in the US for now, plus we don't buy a lot of hatchbacks. Put that e-Power system in our strong-selling Rogue, Nissan. Americans would be all over it.