Nissan's e-Power: Brutal G-Forces In A Mini MPV
Bertel Schmitt , CONTRIBUTOR
I have written about the auto industry all my life.
“It’s totally different from a conventional hybrid” said Nissan Co-CEO Hiroto Saikawa this morning in Yokohama, when he showed the new e-powered Nissan Note.
In a regular hybrid, the internal combustion engine still sets the wheels in motion as we have been used to for more than 100 years. The ICE is supported by an electrical motor, which draws its power from a battery. During braking, the electric motor turns into a generator, which charges the battery. The regenerated energy is the secret behind the hybrid’s great mileage.
In an e-powered car, the ICE no longer is tied to the wheels. The motor works as a generator, and charges a battery. The battery powers an electrical engine, which now finally can set things in motion. With that setup, the ICE can work at the revs most suited for low consumption. In case that’s reminding you of how the Chevrolet Volt works, then you are right. What’s so totally different then?
A hybrid used to require a lot of space in the cars, and a lot of money from the customer. Nissan shrunk the hybrid to the size of a regular engine, and it fits in the engine compartment of the Nissan Note, a Mini-MPV. Its battery is one twentieth the size of that of a Nissan LEAF, and it fits below the front seats without eating into the ample legroom of the rear passengers.
So what? The answer will be provided at a testdrive. When I took an e-powered Note on a quick spin through Yokohama this afternoon, a torquey 187.3 foot lbs electric motor delivered face-flattening-forces in tune of what is demanded in the ludicrous mode scene. The aggressively regenerating brake takes a little bit of getting used to. In the Note, we now brake with the accelerator. Take your foot off the gas, and it feels as if you slammed the brakes. If you don’t want to alarm your passengers, you will quickly learn to work the pedal with the tender touch of a piano player in a Chopin recital. With a little practice, the disk brakes will remain unused, and the mileage will soar.
Speaking of mileage, the stated 2.7 liter for 100 km according to the very optimistic Japanese standard would translate to 87.4 mpg U.S. if it could be easily converted, which it can’t. Nissan doesn’t have U.S. numbers, because the Note will be sold in the Japanese market only for the time being. “We’ll see how it is doing at home, then we’ll decide about going abroad,” Nissan spokesman Nick Maxfield told me today. The Note lists in Japan at 1,772,289 Yen [$17,155], proof that hybrid no longer equals expensive. Nissan seems to have a lot of trust in its pricing power: Customers will cross-shop the car with the Toyota Aqua, better known Stateside as the Prius C. The Aqua is similarly priced, and it is on place 2 of Japan’s salesparade. Bigger brother Prius takes #1.