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Sunday, 07 August 2022
UP next in the continuing saga of carmakers going electric is the hugely successful Nissan Qashqai, which pioneered the crossover segment in 2007.
Qashqai is the first Nissan model in Europe to be equipped with a drive system called e-Power, which is crucial to the carmaker’s electrification strategy.
The e-Power system is aimed at delivering the “smooth driving experience associated with a pure EV, but without the need to recharge”.
The system does not dispense with the internal combustion engine but works with it.
So, the engine system comprises a high-output battery that is complemented by a variable compression ratio 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo-charged petrol engine.
This generates 190PS, and works with a power generator, inverter and a 140kW electric motor of similar size and power output that is found in Nissan’s EVs (electric vehicles).
The petrol engine generates electricity, which is transmitted via the inverter to the battery pack, the electric motor or both.
What sets this powertrain apart is that the electric motor is the sole source of power for the wheels, so its response is instant.
This, says Nissan, “represents an appealing alternative to traditional hybrids where drivers must accept inherent shortcomings to the driving experience”.
As such e-Power is an “ideal technology” for those facing a daily urban or suburban drive. They might like to drive a full EV in future but cannot recharge easily or are not ready to make the move to full electric. “With Nissan’s e-Power technology, we feel that customers will fall in love with the feeling of an electric powertrain without the range concerns,” says Arnaud Charpentier, region vice president, product strategy and pricing.
The 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine was first used by Nissan’s Infiniti brand. Ahead of its first introduction in 2018 with Infiniti, it was listed as being among the world’s 10 best engines by Ward’s, a US-based automotive consultancy.
Key to the development of the e-Power system for the Qashqai was the need to ensure the driving experience gave a “connected” sensation, where the petrol engine speed remains relative to the Qashqai’s road speed.
Nissan engineers in Britain and Spain collaborated in developing a system called “Linear Tune”.
This feature governs the petrol engine and progressively increases the speed of the 1.5-litre engine to meet the motor’s energy demands as the car accelerates, ensuring there is no “disconnect” between what the occupants experience in terms of performance and sound.
The disparity between engine speed and road speed is a phenomenon that drivers and passengers find unsettling.
For example, a sudden rise in engine revs without a commensurate increase in speed is perceived as frustrating and “disconnected” by occupants. Linear Tune on e-Power is the antidote to that.
Similar to the Nissan Ariya —which I wrote about last week — e-Power benefits from the “one pedal” driving experience called e-Pedal Step.
Designed to take the repetitive strain out of stop-start driving, where the driver is frequently moving their foot between the accelerator and brake, e-Pedal Step allows drivers to accelerate and brake using just the accelerator.
A switch on the centre console activates the system: once engaged, the accelerator delivers acceleration as usual.
Upon release of the accelerator, e-Pedal Step brakes the Qashqai enough to illuminate brake lights, and reduce propulsion to a “creeping” speed, but not a complete stop.
This ensures smooth, low-speed parking manoeuvres. Nissan says: “Drivers will quickly adapt their accelerator pedal inputs to maintain smooth progress, ensuring urban driving is more intuitive and less demanding.”
The advantage of the e-Power system is that the engine runs within its optimal range and best compression ratio, leading to “superior fuel efficiency and lower CO2 emissions” compared with a traditional ICE.
There is a reduction in engine noise and an additional advantage is the “minimal impact e-Power will have on urban air quality”.
Thanks to the pure electric motor drive, there’s no delay in the delivery of torque as in a traditional hybrid, where there can be a sudden rise in engine speed.
The instant response of the e-Power system delivers a “unique and exciting driving experience in all driving conditions”.
To maximise performance, in high acceleration or high-speed situations, the energy management control unit within the e-Power system can send the power generated by the 1.5-litre engine directly to the electric motor, via the inverter, to bolster the electricity supply, which is coming from the battery.
Under deceleration and braking, the kinetic energy is recaptured and channelled back to the battery to optimise efficiency.
Customer deliveries start in September. Pricing starts from £32,950 and the car was available for order earlier this month.
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