Dn a hybrid, the dominant philosophy is to add an electric motor to back up the internal combustion engine in the most energy-consuming phases (start-ups, pick-ups). At Nissan, where a few attempts have been made in distant markets, notably the Note in 2017 in Japan, a hybrid has never been marketed in Europe.
The brand has therefore decided to fix this and do it unexpectedly, by reversing the roles assigned to the two engines. This system, called e-Power, places an electric motor at the center of the strategy, which directly drives the front wheels. It does without both the gearbox and the heavy and expensive battery pack of rechargeable hybrids.
The refill? It necessarily exists since it is necessary to supply energy to this 190 hp electric motor. That role falls to an all-new Nissan 3-cylinder turbo petrol engine, featuring a variable compression ratio to deliver 158hp. This is calibrated to work best in a restricted speed range (1,650 to 4,900 rpm) and thus adopts the role of a simple generator, with no mechanical link to the drive wheels.
It therefore sends its energy to the electric motor whose Qashqai exploits the responsiveness and flexibility while the 3 cylinders run at almost constant speed. “As this engine is disconnected from the wheels, says Lucile Laporte, regional program manager, we can change the stroke of the piston and exploit a variable compression rate depending on the driving situation. It is tuned to best serve as a generator. In performance, it is allowed to target those of diesel without using diesel. » A message for fleet managers.
The disadvantage is that you still have to go to the pump to fill the 55 l tank with gasoline, but the advantage is that you don’t have to hunt for the electric charging station. So what is the advantage of remaining at this point at the mercy of fossil fuels? Nissan is betting here on a transition solution, useful to convince those refractory to electric that this is the future. They will be able to do so without the refueling constraints associated with this mode of propulsion while enjoying its elasticity at low and medium speeds. A small useful 1.8 kWh battery remains for recharging/restoration by feeding on energy recovery when slowing down.
Developer inspired by the “one pedal” which restores strong decelerations until the complete stop at the lift of the foot of the accelerator, Nissan does not repeat this excellent solution, its customers not having wished it. An error in our opinion even if a short handling allowed us to note that the system which one requests by pressing on an “e-Pedal Step” button only requires the use of the brake to immobilize the vehicle in all limit switch. This twin engine has an effect on the scale with some 200 additional kg. But the goal is to reduce polluting emissions, the Qashqai e-Power being credited with 119 g of CO2or 5.3 l per 10 km.
Theory and reality
Not bad for an SUV, but from theory to reality there is often a big leap. Confident, Nissan offered us to take control of this vehicle on the Jarama circuit, near Madrid, not to establish times, but to discover how e-Power works. For this, the course embellished with skittles, Stops, roundabouts, hills and gradients, was supposed to reproduce the usual situations of open roads.
In the space of a few laps where we briefly tested the “Sport” mode and then the standard mode, we played the game of the “Economy” program with a rather light right foot. The observation is that indeed, at low speeds, the Qashqai evolves with a fluidity and an immediate electric reactivity. But the limitation to 120 km / h did not allow us to check if it had extension beyond, weak point of electric.
On the other hand, the softness and the sound discretion are there, even if Nissan has worked on a gearshift simulation, a fashionable “tuning” on the electrics which thus imitate the thermal ones. The on-board sound system is designed to also kill parasitic sounds, which augurs well for a modernized family car for the hybrid cause, in particular with a central screen increased from 9 to 12 inches in order to ensure grain. There remains, before that of a real test, the verdict of our brief test which emerges with a consumption of 7.2 l, penalized by the start-up phase weighing on too short a ride. The Qashqai e-Power should do better in a real situation, to be checked from June at the time of marketing at a price of around 40,000 euros.