One of the major worries that customers have in electric vehicles is their seemingly inability to travel as far as their conventional combustion engine-powered counterparts. This is also considered as the biggest reason why customers have yet to make the jump to EVs even as its zero-emission factor should already make them appealing.
When Nissan first launched the Leaf in 2010, it was a very persuasive proposition. In fact, the Japanese carmaker has sold more than quarter of a million units of the Leaf since launch. However, the fact remains that the Nissan Leaf continues to be linked to the so-called range anxiety. But, Nissan is now introducing a solution that should enable an EV to travel farther than it used to be – by employing a new range extender powertrain called the e-Power system.
The propulsion power for the 2016 Nissan Leaf is provided by an AC synchronous electric motor that could provide 80kW of output and 280 Nm of torque. In turn, this electric motor derives its power from a compact lithium-ion battery pack. A 24 kWh battery pack allows the 2016 Nissan Leaf to have an EPA-rated range of 84 miles (135 km). However, customers may avail of a higher capacity power source – a 30 kWh battery pack – that provides enough juice for the Nissan Leaf to have an EPA-rated 107 miles (172 km) of range. Of course, actual range may vary depending on driving conditions.
Now, e-Power system should allow electric vehicles to travel farther than their usual range. This system – basically the same as those employed in the Chevrolet Volt and BMW i3 – entails the usage of a small capacity gasoline engine serving as a generator that recharges the battery pack as soon as the power charge reaches a certain low level. However, range extenders usually employ a very small gas tank, which means they would not really allow EVs to travel long distances, especially when there are no recharging stations along the way.
Initially, Nissan deemed the e-Power system to be traditionally too bulky to be installed into a compact car. However, the Japanese carmaker said that it “cracked the code” in minimizing its weight while still optimizing energy management. Nissan also managed to develop more responsive motor controls. This allowed Nissan to develop the e-Power system that employs a smaller battery than the Leaf but with the same results. In addition, the e-Power system is also as fuel efficient as leading hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius and is as quiet as a typical electric car.
Nissan will first employ this new e-Power drivetrain on the new Nissan Note city car (Versa Note in the United States), which makes it as the first sequential hybrid car in the B segment. Nissan, however, has yet to reveal where it would sell the Note e-Power and how much a customer should shell out for the model.