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e-Power: ‘New’ electric drive train from Nissan

PETROL/ELECTRIC Leaf: Image: Nissan
PETROL/ELECTRIC Leaf: Image: Nissan

YOKOHAMA, Japan – Once-upon-a-time Nissan was making much of a small pure-electric car named Leaf and since then has sold a quarter-million of them.

Earth was saved, sunshine was going to drive automobiles, but then the oil price fell through the floor and nobody cared any more because it’s a helluva lot easier to tank up and drive for 600km than it is to have to plug your car to a charger at a motel and drive on in the morning.

So – and perhaps I’m being unkind here – Nissan has capitulated and added a small combustion engine to the Leaf to enable it to recharge on the move. After all, it’s a fair drive from Paris to the Cote d’Azur.

PETROL/ELECTRIC Leaf: Image: Nissan
PETROL/ELECTRIC Leaf: Image: Nissan

The standard Lead, by the way, is available in South Africa – a small car priced at R475 000.

The new pairing is called e-POWER (the capitals are Nissan’s and will henceforth be lower case) and, the automaker says, it’s the first time that e-Power technology has become available. But that’s only a name game – many other automakers have done the same thing already with equally clever names..

Nissan, therefore, has seen the folly of its ways and joined the sensible mainstream.

READ MORE Nissan features on Carman’s Corner

The combination of petrol/diesel and battery power is phenomenal and some of the fastest cars in the world have adopted the technology. Nissan says it “marks a significant milestone in the electrification strategy under Nissan Intelligent Mobility”.

It’s been done already, Nissan, but let’s see what you now have to offer…

PETROL/ELECTRIC Leaf: Image: Nissan
PETROL/ELECTRIC Leaf: Image: Nissan

“Unlike the Leaf, e-Power adds a small gasoline engine to charge the high-output battery when necessary, eliminating the need for an external charger while offering the same high-output.”

The Leaf is still driven electrically, the automaker says, but the petrol engine is not hooked to the drive train – it merely charges the car’s battery pack. “The e-Power system,” Nissan adds, “allows you to enjoy all the benefits of an EV without having to worry about charging the battery.”

Like carrying a generator around in the boot and thus removing the (as Carman’s Corner has found) the fear of a dead battery-pack while (in Cape Town, anyway) stressing during rush-hour over not only whether you’ll get to the airport on time but whether you’ll get there at all.

BIGGER (ELECTRIC) MOTOR NEEDED

In a conventional hybrid system (are they yet ‘conventional’?) a low-output electric motor is mated to a petrol engine, the latter to drive the wheels when the battery is low (or at high speed). Repeat: the Leaf’s petrol engine only charges the battery.

“Such a system,” Renault says, “generally requires a bigger (electric) motor and battery because the (electric) motor is the only direct source to drive the wheels. This has made it hard for the automotive industry to mount the system in a compact car.

“Nissan, however, has cracked the code and learned how to minimise weight, develop more responsive (electric) motor control and optimise energy management.

“As a result, e-Power uses a smaller battery than the Leaf but delivers the same driving experience as a full EV.” Because you’re carrying you electricity generator around with you.

….AND THE BENEFITS ARE…

e-Power delivers great torque almost instantly, improving drive response and giving smooth acceleration. “Also,” Nissan adds, “the system operates very quietly, much like a full EV, and because e-Power relies on the (petrol) engine much less its fuel efficiency is comparable to that of leading conventional hybrids, especially when commuting.”

Nissan says it’s committed to developing battery-powered power trains that use various fuels to cater to various world markets. “e-Power is but one example of that quest,” it says, “and will strengthen Nissan’s range of electric power trains.”

The automaker is also researching SOFC (don’t panic, it stands for Solid Oxide Fuel Cell) vehicles and the company will continue to introduce products to promote the worldwide use of electric vehicles.

NB: Nissan says e-Power is classified as a series hybrid. The Note e-Power represents the first mass-production compact segment car to be equipped with a series hybrid system.

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