Yoshi Shimoida, Nissan’s deputy general manager, for electric car engineering, tells Australia’s Motoring, “In the future, Nissan will add to the lineup of EV systems an engine that is only for generating energy.” He is quick to point out the LEAF will not be getting the range extender engine. The technology will be used for an entirely new car with a chassis separate than the one the LEAF is built on.
Unlike the Chevy Volt, which has an internal combustion engine that can drive the front wheels directly in certain situations, the Nissan will have have a range extender engine that is used solely to generate electricity. It will not be able to power the front wheels at all. “Next year we announce what it’s called,” Shimoida said.
That’s similar to the system BMW uses for its i3 REx. Shimoida acknowledges the similarity to the BMW approach, but said his company refers to its system differently. “It’s something like that [range extender]. But we call it a series hybrid,” he says. He declined to give details about how far the new Nissan would be able to travel using a combination of battery and generator power. The BMW i3 can go about 150 miles before needing to refuel.
Could the new Nissan be based on the IDS Concept the company revealed at the Tokyo motor show last month? That car featured styling that was much more exciting than the LEAF. As good as that car is, its styling has never been its strong suit.
Why would Nissan, the world’s leading electric vehicle manufacturer, be introducing an EV with a range extender motor? People are noticing that there are a lot fewer EVs on the road then we thought there would be a few years ago. President Obama famously predicted there would be a million EVs on American roads by the end of 2015. In actuality, there are only one third that number.
People are still spooked by electric cars. They don’t understand quite how they work or how to recharge them. Dealers are doing a lousy job of selling them. Range anxiety is real for many mainstream drivers who fear being stranded miles from home. The recharging infrastructure- even considering the growing Tesla Supercharger network– to support more electric cars is still in its infancy.
EV purists often thumb their noses at ICE-equipped cars like the Chevy Volt and BMW i3 REx. My own son-in-law sniffs that he will never own a car with an internal combustion engine of any kind ever again and, perhaps, in 10 or 15 years, we will look back on these internal combustion machines as quaint anachronisms. We will shake our heads and ask, “What did people ever see in them?” But they may be the bridge the world needs between conventional cars and electric cars. Nissan’s new marketing strategy may prove to be quite brilliant.