Remember way back in December last year, when the rumors were swirling that the next generation of Nissan’s sports rocket, the GT-R, would be getting a hybrid drivetrain? Since then we’ve gotten subsequent confirmation that, indeed, Nissan was thinking about putting some kind of electric drivetrain into the GT-R—be it hybrid or fully electric.
And with the upcoming launch of the new Infiniti M35 hybrid at the LA Auto Show later this year, it seems that all the clues are falling into place—could the M35′s hybrid system be a portent of what’s to come for the GT-R?
As the Detroit Bureau reports, the M35 hybrid represents Nissan’s first fully in-house designed hybrid system—the Altima hybrid used slightly modified technology licensed from Toyota. But Nissan isn’t simply aiming to match Toyota on the performance of their own hybrid system, they want to best it in all ways. To start with, the Nissan system uses lithium-ion batteries, which take up less space and are lighter weight than Toyota’s nickel metal hydride batteries. To save additional weight, the M35 uses a single 50 kW electric motor, as opposed to Toyota’s two motors.
The Nissan system forgoes the continuously variable transmission (CVT) that Toyota uses in its hybrids in favor of a 6 speed automatic. This is a strategy that Hyundai is also employing in its upcoming Sonata Hybrid. In both cases, the choice of a 6 speed automatic was made to deal with the CVTs seeming lack of connection to the tires during acceleration which can be somewhat unnerving and lead to a sense of marshmallow accelerator pedal. In my mind, this feature is the key to having an acceptable hybrid system in the GT-R. With a gooey, slow, CVT you could never eek out the performance embodied in the GT-R.
Of course, I’m guessing Nissan will still offer the GT-R in a couple traditional combustion configurations, with the hybrid system being one build option. But if done properly, the hybrid system can actually increase the performance of the combustion engine by adding oomph at the low end during initial acceleration and by adding a bit of torque during passing maneuvers. Plus, when just driving the GT-R as your daily driver (which is one of the great appeals of the sports car), the hybrid system will likely increase fuel economy by at least 30%.
In the case of the M35 hybrid, Infiniti General Manager Ben Poore, says “We’ll deliver V8 performance with 4-cylinder fuel-economy. We’re going for fuel economy of over 30 mpg on the highway.” It seems that for a car like the GT-R, 30 mpg or more (it’s a lighter, more aerodynamic vehicle than the M35) on the highway would be incredibly respectable—especially if it were able to maintain a 0-60 mph time in the low 3 second range and a combined 480 horsepower.
Nissan has also said that they’ll be releasing an all electric sports car based on the LEAF platform at some point in the near future. The GT-R’s dabbling in the hybrid realm could be an indicator of what direction they are going with the electric sports car concept.