Nissan Looks Ready to Bring E-Power to Its American Fleet

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

There’s no confirmation just yet, but all signs are pointing to the eventual introduction of Nissan’s novel e-Power hybrid system in its U.S. lineup.

We say “novel” because the system isn’t like any gas-electric setup currently on the road. Think of it as a way to cheaply reduce emissions without the worries of limited electric range or the expense of bulky battery packs. Instead, think of the car as a little ship.

Many Western navies field frigates and destroyers with integrated electric propulsion (IEP), meaning a diesel engine or gas turbine acts as a generator to power the ship’s electric motors, with no mechanical connection between the propellers (think drive wheels) and the fossil fuel-burning powerplants.

That’s essentially how Nissan’s e-Power system operates, only with the generator’s juice entering a small battery before reaching the electric motor. Launched in Japan last year in the Versa Note hatchback, the e-Power system uses a 1.2-liter three-cylinder that hums along at 2,500 rpm. There’s no plug-in capability, and the car’s battery is one-twentieth the size of that found in the company’s first-generation Leaf.

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However, because electric motors generate maximum torque from a standstill, the Note e-Power isn’t as much of a slouch as other small cars.

Automotive News has now spotted two e-Power Notes — one a U.S. model, the other right-hand drive — plying the roadways of Michigan with two hybrid competitors in tow. Earlier this year, a Nissan executive said e-Power would be a good fit outside of Japan, with the automaker ready to position it alongside more expensive conventional hybrids and electrics.

The selling point of e-Power is as much about price as it is about fuel economy. Sure, it’s not as stingy at the pump as some compact hybrids (Japan rates it at 77 mpg, to the Prius hybrid’s 96 mpg), but its simple method of operation means it can undercut the competition in sticker price. With a new Leaf bowing for 2018, having e-Power at the bottom of the lineup would bolster Nissan’s growing green cred.

A version of this story originally appeared on The Truth About Cars

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Steph Willems
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