Rumor: Nissan Expected To Launch Range-Extended Electric Car Next Year

For now, Nissan is the undisputed king of electric vehicles. While Tesla Motors might have the luxury market sewn up with its beautiful Model S electric sedan and Model X crossover SUV, Nissan has sold electric cars than any other automaker in the world.

In total, more than 250,000 all-electric Nissan vehicles have been sold to date, with the majority of those sales — nearly 200,000 — being of its popular LEAF five-seat hatchback.

Nissan is working on a range-extended EV for launch next year.

Nissan is working on a range-extended EV for launch next year.

As we’ve reported plenty of times in the past, Nissan’s electric vehicle strategy has been to focus on offering mainstream models for mainstream car buyers, building affordable, feature-rich all-electric models. Moving forward, Nissan has committed to bringing a wider variety of electric vehicles to market, including perhaps an all-electric crossover.

Next year, says Australian website Motoring, the Japanese automaker will expand its plug-in vehicle lineup in a new way, launching its first ever range-extended electric car.

Quoting Yoshi Shimoda, Deputy General Manager at Nissan’s Electric and Hybrid Electric Engineering Division, the website says that the as-yet unnamed model will feature the same kind of electric vehicle features as the nissan LEAF, but include a small combustion engine that is capable of extending the range of the car in between charging stations.

The Nissan IDS concept gives us a glimpse of what a future Nissan EV could be like -- but Nissan is also interested in range-extended EVs too.

The Nissan IDS concept gives us a glimpse of what a future Nissan EV could be like — but Nissan is also interested in range-extended EVs too.

Shimoda was careful to reiterate that this new model, the name of which will be announced next year, won’t be sold under the LEAF name badge. Nor will a range-extending engine be offered as part of the Nissan LEAF lineup. Instead, it will be a separate model.

What can we expect from this new model? Unlike a traditional plug-in hybrid or range-extended electric cars like the Chevrolet Volt — where there’s a physical connection between both the electric and gasoline power plants and the drivetrain — Shimoda hinted that Nissan’s new vehicle would operate in a style similar to the range-extended version of the BMW i3.

“In the future, Nissan will will add [a new vehicle] to the line-up of EV systems an engine that is only for generating energy,” he said. “It’s something like [the BMW i3 range-extender]. But we call it a series hybrid.”

Series hybrids — like the range-extending engine used in the BMW i3 — work by connecting the output of an internal combustion engine to a motor generator. When the internal combustion engine runs, the output from the engine turns the shaft on the motor generator, thus producing electricity. That electricity is then used to either run another electric motor, or to charge a battery pack.

The BMW i3 REx features a small range-extending engine.

The BMW i3 REx features a small range-extending engine.

While a series-parallel plug-in hybrid drivetrain — where the internal combustion engine or electric motor can drive the wheels — may have more benefits for longer-distance trips, they cannot be as fuel efficient as a series hybrid drivetrain. That’s because in internal combustion engines operate at peak efficiency at a very narrow range of engine speeds, and while a series hybrid drivetrain can be built to take advantage of that fact, a series-parallel plug-in hybrid drivetrain cannot.

Does this mean Nissan is giving up on all-electric models? Not at all. In fact, Nissan’s upcoming range-extended model appears to be an attempt by Nissan to wean drivers off gasoline by offering them a vehicle which operates primarily in electric mode but can provide backup power as and when required to make it to the next charging station.

Unlike BMW’s tiny 600cc range-extending engine in the BMW i3 REx however, we’re hoping Nissan chooses a slightly more powerful engine for its first range-extended plug-in. Our choice at the moment would be a descendant of the 1.0-litre three-cylinder DIG-S (Direct Injection Gasoline Supercharged) engine used in various Nissan vehicles around the world. Offering high fuel economy and a power output of around 60kW, it could offer incredible fuel economy if kept within a narrow power band.

The Nissan ZEOD featured a powerful, efficient series-hybrid drivetrain.

The Nissan ZEOD featured a powerful, efficient series-hybrid drivetrain.

Not convinced? The ZEOD LMP race car build by Nissan in 2014 featured a tiny 1.5-litre 3-cylinder engine which was tuned to produce 400 horsepower in race conditions. Assuming Nissan could reproduce its amazing power to weight ratio of 10 horsepower per kilogram in a production engine, it could ensure the unnamed plug-in would gain little extra weight due to the extra power plant on board. That in turn would ensure minimal efficiency loss due to that extra weight in terms of all-electric range.

We’ll know more in the coming months, but in the meantime we’re curious as to what you anticipate this new model to be? Will it be a LEAF-sized vehicle, a stepping-stone on the way towards full-electric vehicle ownership, or will it be a larger model designed to bring fuel-efficient motoring to mid-and full-size vehicles?

And would you be tempted to own a Nissan range-extended electric car over a fully-electric model like the Nissan LEAF?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • Bruce Moore

    I would like Nissan to make their first extended range a PHEV SUV to compete with Mitsubushi’s Outlander PHEV.

  • EnergyGreen

    This vehicle is extremely important and will dominate the EV scene. Apparently most observers are unaware of a SEV, when it is common in commercial applications – ships, loco, etc. The volt should have been a SEV, but the engineers there are mechanically minded.

    However, unlike the author here, it is a HUGE mistake to put in a large engine. That money should be spent on a larger battery. The author here is still thinking parallel, or is thinking racing, etc. Wrong. Ideally the battery should be 35 kWh, and the engine 15 kWh, or at most 20 kWh. Normal driving is about 10 to 12 kW. So a 15 kW engine can still fill the battery if it runs out, for occasional hillclimbs and passes.

    It would be a grave mistake for the gas engine to go over 20 kW (27 HP). 15 kW 2 cyls would be ideal. Battery should start at 25 kWh with options to 35 kWh or more. Motor should be between 60 kW and 100 kW.

    • vdiv

      The author is reporting, providing context, and maybe a bit speculating based on all of it. The parallel hybrid mode in the Volt ended up as a result of the realization that it is more efficient at low torque high speed driving as the kinetic energy is not unnecessarily converted to electric and back. Looking at the i3 REx performance and efficiency in those conditions it becomes clear that if the vehicle is going to use a reciprocating gasoline engine it might as well be used mechanically.

  • Surya

    After 18+ months of driving my ZOE I never want to go back to anything that needs gas. Not even if it only needs just a little of it on occasion. I don’t mind planning for charging on longer trips. It results in a more relaxed drive and makes longer travel more bearable. So no, I wouldn’t buy an EREV from Nissan.
    That being said: I can see why many people who haven’t converted yet would. They feel uncomfortable as they don’t yet know/realize that making the switch isn’t really that hard. So they go for an EREV first. And then they notice they want to drive it in all electric mode as much as possible. So the chance their next car will be a BEV will be quite high, especially since by then EVs will be more affordable and more long range. So it’s the perfect gateway drug.
    So while I wouldn’t get it, I think it’s a good thing for the EV market in the long run.

    • vdiv

      For Nissan it is going “back to the future” and we thought that was Toyota’s shtick.

      • Surya

        Yes and no. They’re still investing in EVs and believe in the technology, but I think they realize there’s a whole market for plug ins that will in time lead to higher EV sales. So it will, in theory at least, lead to higher sales in both the short term (the EREVs) and the long term (BEVs). Point in case: 2/3rds of i3s are REx. Most of those people could probably do with the BEV version, but don’t feel comfortable doing so just yet. It takes time for people to realize EVs do in fact work for most of them.

  • SKPnSF

    Having owned a Leaf and an i3 REX, I can state with certainly that range anxiety is real with a pure EV. Whether an EV driver wants to admit it or not, they are always concerned with the next charge and if they have enough electricity to make it there. Until the charging infrastructure is as prolific as gasoline, the range extender is the best solution.