Nissan Will Introduce An EV With Range Extender Next Year


Nissan IDS concept

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.


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I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.
  • changeforgood

    no it is based on the gripz concept.

    • Steve Hanley

      You may be right, but I have seen no reports to support your assertion. Do you know of any?

      • changeforgood

        not really, but seen the patent of the system, and by nissan statement in the auto show, that the gripz was a series hybrid and they told whatcar in 2014 they would build a PHEV CUV, it sounds like it.

        • Steve Hanley

          Sounds like you have good information. Even better than mine! Thanks.

  • t_

    Actually, I’m not sure if most people understand how exactly the internal combustion engine functions. And the other systems also. To put gas in and plug the car in is also pretty simple. One simple thing is the problem – range. The drivers till now are used to using their cars in a more versatile way – for a 10 miles trips and for 200 miles trips. So, buying an expensive car and using it only for half of your trips is NOT so mainstream. So, building a good electric car, that can go even further is a good idea, as it was back then, when the Volt was introduced(although there is a slight difference).

  • AaronD12

    I’ll keep my EV free of oil changes. That’s not to say others won’t like the car — in fact, it will be quite the opposite. Serial hybrids are ideal because of their relative simplicity, compared to parallel hybrids.

    Case in point: The Volt needs a three-clutch system for its parallel hybrid to work. The i3 does not. Its ICE only runs a generator.

    The smoothness of an EV but the range of a hybrid. Once batteries get the range and charge speed, even serial hybrids won’t be necessary, but until they do, it’s a good choice.

    • I’d hardly say the i3 has the range of a hybrid. Stopping every hour would be maddening, IMO.

    • gendotte

      As I see it the magic numbers are 500 and 30. 500 miles and less than a 30 minute recharge time. That will run ICEs off the road. Better than that and it will happen quickly.

  • Raphael Sturm

    The problem with REX cars is the limited long distance performance, if you have a 30kW ICE, you are limited to 30kW times the generator efficiency times the charging efficiency times the electric motor efficiency and that can easily drop to less than 25kW, if you want to use more power than that, the battery, still, limits your range.

    • Eco Logical

      If you’re going on a long trip you could start the REX before the battery is fully depleted (maybe 50%) then the battery’s full power would be available when needed. Most EVs use about 12 ~ 15 kW average when driving at highway speeds so a 30 kW REX would easily keep up.

      • Steve Hanley

        That seems logical. However, the EPA forbids the engine in the BMW i3 REx to be started until the battery is down below a 3% SOC. By the time the engine is allowed to kick in, drivers often have to slow down on hills and let other people by.

        Stupidity, thy name is administrative regulation. I defy anyone from EPA to come by and explain this insane rule.

        • Semper Gumby

          Actually it’s 6% SOC, still stupid though. Many of us that have the i3 REx code it so that we can turn it on anytime below 75% SOC. When going on a long road trip I operate it much like Eco Logical says, run on the battery till about 50% SOC then fire up the REx for the rest of the trip. Never had a problem on the hills that way.

        • bioburner

          Nice article Steve. I’m thinking that BMW convinced CARB to allow the i3 Rex to be classified as a ZEV because the ICE would be used only occasionally. The European models allow you to use the ICE anytime as commenter “Semper Gumby” does but this requires the owner to code his car.
          By comparison the Chevy Volt does allow the user to switch to MOUNTAIN or HOLD mode any time so that car get NO ZEV credits under the CARB system.
          Time will tell if Nissan uses the i3 Rex or Volt approach regarding the ICE use in their up coming car.

          • Steve Hanley

            Hmmmm….your suggestion makes sense. Gad, I struggle to understand the bureaucratic mind!

      • Raphael Sturm

        Thats true for the US Highway, but if you think of mountain passes, or the German Autobahn those cars have to work, too.

  • gendotte

    I would buy one if it was in the 20s