Nissan Eyes Hybrid Future to Complement Electric Car Portfolio

By Jacob Brown | October 22, 2012
In Smyrna, Tennessee, Nissan is building up production capacity for the production of as many as 200,000 lithium-ion battery packs. It's also building similar plants in the U.K. and Japan. Through the first nine months of 2012, the automaker has sold just 5,212 all-electric Nissan Leaf hatchbacks and far fewer of its Infiniti M35h hybrids that use a similar battery system. That's not a whole lot considering the vast amount of money Nissan has invested in battery production. So what's Nissan doing? Building hybrids, says the automaker. Or at least planning to.
Nissan has never really gotten into the hybrid game. Its Nissan Altima Hybrid was last sold new in the U.S. in 2011 in just a handful of states. It shared its electric powertrain with the Toyota Camry Hybrid under license. The only hybrid it currently sells is the Infiniti M35h. But in Japan, Nissan is showcasing its next-generation hybrid technology that will draw heavily from the lithium-ion technology used in the Leaf. First up looks to be a front-wheel-drive hybrid system employed in an experimental Infiniti JX, which is expected to make its way to the U.S. within a year. At the launch for the 2013 Nissan Altima earlier this year in Tennessee, we were told that a new Altima Hybrid would be on its way but wasn't coming immediately in light of the buzz surround its class-leading 38-mpg four-cylinder model. Conveniently enough, the Nissan Altima and Infiniti JX crossover share many of the same mechanical components. The next Nissan hybrid system is expected to use either a 2.0-liter engine or 2.5-liter supercharged four-cylinder engine, paired to an electric motor and continuously variable automatic transmission. In the Infiniti JX prototype, engineers say the hybrid setup is able to eek out 20- to 30-percent better fuel economy than the standard V-6 model. In addition to talking about full-on hybrids, Nissan introduced what it calls S-Hybrid technology, the "S" standing for smart or simple. Things like regenerative braking, automatic engine start-stop, and more efficient engine components to build up the vehicle's overall fuel economy are planned to be used in this suite of technologies. They'll have to be, as Nissan's Mitsuhiko Yamashita, the global vice president of research and development for Nissan, toldĀ Automotive News. "All vehicles need some form of electrification," he said. "Motor assistance is really key. Otherwise they can't meet the fuel economy requirements beyond 2015." Nissan has already debuted some of the S-Hybrid technologies in the Japanese-market Serena minivan, but plans to unveil it to the rest of the world starting later next year. Source: Automotive News (Subscription required), Nissan