Hybrid, but not as you know it: Nissan e-Power
There are different ways of combining combustion engines with electric motors and batteries. In a classic hybrid system, like Toyota’s and Lexus’, the wheels are powered by either the ICE or the e-motor, or a combination of both. You cannot charge the batteries externally – contrary to the hybrids from most German competitors, like the ‘e’ models from BMW and Mercedes, the TFSI e-tron models from Audi and the GTE variants of the VW Golf and Passat.
BMW offers a different type of hybrid with the i3 REX. The term hybrid is slightly abused here, because the i3 is basically an EV that can be plugged and happens to have an optional petrol-fed generator on board in case of emergency – indeed, the so-called range extender. The latter never drives the wheels directly, it merely acts as a power unit to charge the batteries when no charging point is available. A similar system was found in the Opel Ampera.
Same same, but different
At the Geneva Motor Show, Nissan presented yet another type of hybrid – the first in its kind. It is similar to the BMW i3 REX’s, but there is a huge difference. Contrary to the Bavarian e-car’s system, Nissan’s hybrid drive cannot be plugged.
Called e-Power, the drivetrain is made up by two e-motors which are fed by relatively small batteries. These can only be replenished by a 1.5 petrol engine, which here as well acts like a generator. Pros: you don’t need charging infrastructure and the batteries are cheaper. Cons: the e-range is relatively limited and the petrol engine, however efficiently it does its job, still causes emissions.
The e-Power hybrid system will be available in Europe by 2022. In Japan, it is already used by the popular Nissan Note.
Picture: the Nissan IMQ concept car featuring e-Power hybrid technology