I don’t know which is the more dramatic news: that Nissan is selling a series hybrid in a major global model, or that Nissan somehow made an interesting crossover.
I guess the second point isn’t fair. Nissan made the CrossCabriolet! What a gem. The first point is also not a huge surprise to devoted fans of modern Nissan engineering, all four or five of you out there.
The car in question is the new 2022 Nissan Qashqai, which we get as the Rogue Sport here in the States. It is a very bland, plain, uninspiring crossover that is elevated in this new generation by an optional series hybrid drivetrain.
A series hybrid is different from what is in your neighbour’s Prius, or just about any other hybrid that’s been on the market, Chevy Volt included. Those cars have electric motors and internal-combustion engines, and both are capable of sending power to your car’s wheels. Series hybrids have electric motors and internal-combustion engines, but only the electric motor drives the car. All the internal-combustion engine is send power to the battery. The BMW i3 REx with the little range-extender motorcycle engine in the trunk is like this.
Here’s a little diagram that Nissan Japan put out to demonstrate how this system, called e-Power, works in general:
And here’s Nissan’s press release explanation of how e-Power works in the 2022 Qashqai specifically:
The new Qashqai’s e-POWER system is comprised of a high-output battery and powertrain integrated with a category-leading variable compression ratio 154hp petrol engine, power generator, inverter and 140kW electric motor of similar size and power output as found in Nissan’s electric vehicles. It’s a unique solution that combines the enjoyable, seamless linear acceleration which is characteristic of an EV, but without the need for charging.
To meet the typical demands of European consumers and their daily drive, the e-POWER installation has been significantly upgraded for the new Qashqai. Where the application in the Note – Japan’s best-selling car in recent years – is a 1.2 petrol engine charging the battery unit, and a final power output of 106hp, for Europe it has been upgraded to a 1.5-litre petrol engine, with a final power output of 140kW (187hp).
The unique element of the e-Power is that the petrol engine is used solely to generate electricity, whilst the wheels are completely driven by the electric motor. This means the engine can always run within its optimal range, leading to superior fuel efficiency and lower CO2 emissions compared with a traditional internal combustion engine.
We at Jalopnik have actually driven an e-Power Nissan, the Serena.
It’s Japan’s best-selling minivan, and we were charmed by it:
The Serena e-Power basically drives like an EV with a bit more noise. It’s an odd sensation; mash the throttle and the petrol engine reluctantly comes to life but the noise from the rough small engine does not correlate to the speed you’re travelling at. The gas engine isn’t driving the wheels, remember, it’s providing more juice for the electric motor and batteries.
The powertrain is best suited for use around town where the petrol engine doesn’t get strained or needed too often. Let’s not forget the whole system was taken straight out of the (smaller, lighter) Note, albeit with a bit more power. When you ask too much from the right pedal, the Serena’s drivetrain does genuinely feel like it was originally supposed to propel a compact.
Speaking of the right pedal, the e-Power comes with something called an “e-Pedal,” some tech taken from the Leaf. With the e-Pedal, lifting off the accelerator pedal engages the brakes automatically. Keep your foot off the throttle and the car will brake itself to a full stop. You can of course override this with the brake pedal. While not really useful on the motorway, I found myself using it to slow down around town. The benefit of this is it makes the most of recouping energy through regenerative braking.
When we drove that Serena, our freelancer Ken Saito described e-Power as “a good idea that’s still definitely in its early stages, and I assume that’s why Nissan is taking its sweet time to export it.” I certainly hope that soon Americans will get a chance to decide that for themselves. But we’ll see if the Rogue Sport gets this tech or not.