Nissan is plugging along with development of its weird e-Power drivetrain. In its home market of Japan, the carmaker has debuted a new model, the Note Aura, which uses this fascinating EV(ish) tech. Nissan calls the new Note Aura a premium compact car, but we know it’s really just a baby Ariya.
I think the relationship between the Ariya and Note Aura is a little funny, even down to their propulsions methods. The former is a full on SUV with a fully-electric drivetrain, and the latter is a compact (if robust) hatchback that mostly uses electricity to drive the car, but still somehow burns fossil fuels. It almost feels like I’m looking two cars splitting off the same branch of an evolutionary tree.
This new Aura Note is very much an EV, though. It isn’t a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, but it’s still a hybrid. Specifically, it’s a series hybrid.
It works by mating an electric motor to its wheels, like an EV. That electric motor draws its energy from a battery, again, like an EV, but its battery isn’t charged by plugging into the power grid like with a BEV or a PHEV.
The Aura Note’s battery is charged by a small gasoline engine, as Nissan describes:
The e-POWER system offers full electric motor drive, meaning that the wheels are completely driven by the electric motor. e-POWER is comprised of a high-output battery and the powertrain which is integrated with gasoline engine, power generator, inverter and a motor. In conventional hybrid systems, the wheels are driven by an electric motor and a gasoline engine. However, in the e-POWER system, the gasoline engine is not connected to the wheels; it simply charges the battery. And unlike a full EV, the power source is the engine, rather than just the battery.
It almost sounds like Nissan’s e-Power is really just ICE with more steps in between, but it’s not easily summed up that way. It’s more like this:
For starters, it’s much more efficient than standard ICE drivetrains while providing decent power output figures. The Aura Note can get 78 miles per gallon (based on JC08 regulations) and remember, this will be a commuter car, after all, so it will likely do alright with its 134 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque.
Another cool thing about e-Power is that the gasoline engine in the Aura Note can also power the electric motor directly under heavy loads, which ought to make for zippy highway merges.
Nissan has now been developing and honing its series hybrid system for a few years. It debuted in Japan with the Note in 2016, per Nissan, and it’s gone into cars like the Serena (which we drove) and Kicks. The Nissan Qashqai even debuted in Europe with an e-Power drivetrain, too, and China will also see models that are set to be e-Powered in the near future. So, you can see that Nissan is betting big on the series hybrid.
It helps that the latest car Nissan built around this hybrid tech is not bad, too. The Aura Note has good styling and its cabin looks great! It’s not yet a Nissan Ariya, but it’s a cool little hatch that looks like it’s taking its first steps towards electrification, but ends up doing something completely different and interesting at the same time.