Nissan e-POWER beat Toyota’s hybrids in Japan
Nissan celebrates a tremendous achievement of selling 136,324 Note cars in Japan last year, which put the model on the top of all models, ahead of Toyota Aqua (126,561), Toyota Prius (115,462) and Nissan Serena minivan (99,865). For comparison, the Nissan LEAF was #35 at 25,722.
We would normally not bother, but both Nissans – Note and Serena – are offered in conventional and a special, series-hybrid version called e-POWER (without plug-in capability).
As it turns out, 70% of all Note sales in 2018 were Note e-Power, which would translate to over 95,000. Since the introduction of Note e-POWER in November 2016, Nissan already sold over 200,000 of those!
I have posted this here because I think it is a noteworthy (pun intended) development that, up until I saw this article, seemed to have been completely under the radar! AFAIK this is the first series hybrid from a major manufacturer outside of the BMW i3. However unlike the BMW, which is an EV with a reasonably sized battery (22 kWh), a 25 kW 647 cc, two-cylinder generator and a 9 L (2.4 US gal.) fuel tank, the e-Power has a 1.5 kWh battery pack (1/20 the size of it’s all electric stable mate, the Leaf), a 1.2 L three cylinder gasoline generator and 41 L (11 gal.) tank and no plug-in capability. Apparently the e-Power system uses the same electric motor as the Leaf but, it is de-tuned to produce 40kW, exactly half as potency of the Leaf’s system.
There has been some debate, particularly when the Chevrolet Volt was being developed, about whether a series hybrid EV would make sense, the point being that running the ICE as a generator to provide power to the electric motor would be less efficient than a mechanical transmission at highway speeds. Nissan appears to have developed this system with optimization for urban, low speed, stop and go driving. The result is fuel consumption figures of more than 60 mpg, possibly over 80 mpg, allowing up to 850 miles on a single tank of gas! With this car they appear to have achieved what GM did not achieve with the Volt or Toyota with the Prius, a series hybrid that is significantly more fuel efficient than it’s parallel hybrid counterparts.
I am surprised that Nissan has managed to introduce this car in Japan and sell over 200 thousand of them in a little over two years without much notice from the automotive press. It certainly shows what can be achieved with a little effort. On a web site offering new Japan domestic market cars for export, a 2019, Note e-Power was listed at $22,800, exactly $6,000 more than the non e-power variant so, despite costing almost 36% more, 70% of Note sales are the e-Power variant. I think that this type of vehicle could prove very popular in urban and suburban areas all over the world as a commuter car. For long distance highway cruising, not so much, even though it still appears to return fuel consumption figures as good as or better than is pure ICE powered counterpart. This could eventually be a game changer.
Below are links to a November 2016 review of the car and a September 2018 review of the 4WD version by an American living in Japan: