Photo: Wikipedia, Public domain.
Nissan LEAF R&D; Side Benefits?
So far, Nissan has been licensing Toyota technology for its Altima hybrid. But that's about to change for the next generation of Nissan and Infiniti hybrids, and it's no big surprise considering how much R&D; money Nissan has been spending on the LEAF electric car (a lot of what it learned can be used in hybrids). The first car to benefit from Nissan's new hybrid drivetrain will be the Infiniti M sedan (coming late 2010), and the company claims a MPG improvement of between 60 and 90%, compared to the 30% that Toyota's tech could deliver and the 15% of Honda's assist hybrid tech.
To elaborate a bit on this 30% vs 60-90%: The gas-powered Toyota Camry 4-cyl gets a combined MPG of 26, while the Camry hybrid gets a combined 34 MPG. That's about 30% better. Nissan claims that all things being equal, its hybrid drivetrain could bring a 26 MPG car to something in the range of 41-50 MPG.
But those improvements are just from the hybrid drivetrain. There are other ways to reduce fuel consumption (as the Toyota Prius shows). For example, further aerodynamic improvements, weight reduction, low rolling resistance tires, engine down-sizing, electric A/C, steering, driver feedback, etc.
This means that if Nissan only puts its hybrid drivetrain in otherwise regular cars, Toyota might still beat it on MPG because the Prius is a car that was designed from the ground up for high-MPG. Having the most efficient hybrid tech is only part of the equation.
But if Nissan decides to put its new hybrid tech in a car that is specifically designed to get high-MPG, it could probably get in the 60-70 MPG range, finally beating Toyota at its own game.
More Details About Nissan's Hybrid Tech
From the Nissan press release:
The hybrid system allows for the elimination of friction by completely disconnecting the engine from the system during motor driving or deceleration. It is highly energy-efficient because the battery is charged efficiently by the engine while driving, while the rotational energy of the wheels is used for energy regeneration. When the clutch is engaged, the engine, motor and wheels are directly connected, so the system also achieves responsive acceleration for sporty driving. In addition, accurate control allows the engine to be stopped more frequently. During test demonstrations conducted in city conditions, it was found that the engine was in a halt condition for almost 50% of the driving time.
The motor is powered by a laminated lithium-ion battery featuring the same structure as the one used on LEAF, Nissan's electric vehicle. The powerful lithium-ion batteries are used to deliver high-response linear acceleration and fuel consumption equivalent to that of compact cars. The batteries are supplied by Automotive Energy Supply Corporation (AESC), a subsidiary jointly established by Nissan and NEC Corp. of Japan.