The Nissan models Qashqai and X-Trail break new ground with the e-POWER drive as serial hybrids: Electric motors drive the wheels, the power for this is supplied by an efficient high-tech petrol engine.
Less consumption, cleaner exhaust gases: These are the topics that have kept car manufacturers in suspense for a long time. In addition to the electric car (EV), there are therefore several hybrid drive concepts on the market. With e-POWER, Nissan is now bringing a new type of technology to Germany in the Qashqai crossover and in the X-Trail SUV, which promises the drive comfort of an electric car without fear of range and searching for charging stations.
e-POWER combines a powerful electric motor with a petrol engine that is so powerful that it can supply the electric motor with electricity and also charge a small battery used as a buffer. As with the Stromer with range extender, the combustion engine itself does not drive the wheels - that is the main difference to the parallel hybrid that is widespread today.
In this case, the combustion engine usually takes over the main drive work, while the significantly weaker electric motor only acts as an assistant. Also involved: a planetary gear or a continuously variable automatic. The peculiarity of this layout is well known and not particularly popular: the combustion engine changes speed often and quickly depending on the position of the accelerator pedal. When accelerating, the car increases speed, but the speed remains at a high level - the rubber band effect.
Nissan doesn't need such a gearbox with e-POWER, because the combustion engine has no through-drive to the drive wheels. The 116 kW (158 hp) and 250 Newton meters of the 1.5-liter three-cylinder turbo only power a generator, which in turn supplies the Qashqai's 140 kW (190 hp) and 330 Newton meters strong synchronous motor from Bosch and/or charges the drive battery . With a capacity of 2.1 kWh, it is rather small and enables purely electric driving for around three to four kilometers without recharging or recuperation.
The combustion engine is well prepared for its task as an efficient power plant with particularly clean exhaust gases. A variable compression ratio (VCR, Variable Compression Ratio), which Nissan implements via a complex adjustment mechanism, makes it technologically outstanding. There is no need to worry about the durability of this system, which works with additional intermediate shafts and connecting rods: Cars from the luxury Nissan brand Infiniti have been sold in the USA, Japan and China with this VCR technology for some time and have been considered very reliable from the start of sales .
The compression of the turbo engines in Qashqai and X-Trail VC-T (Variable Compression Turbo) can be infinitely adjusted in a wide range from 8:1 to 14:1. When there is a high load requirement, such as full acceleration, the engine works with low compression and high boost pressure through the turbo.When driving constantly with little load, it works with high compression and less boost pressure. According to Nissan, this not only ensures optimal fuel efficiency, but also such clean exhaust gases that Nissan is already well prepared for future exhaust emission limits with e-POWER.
Quiet without a balancer shaft
The VCR design also means that the three connecting rods move up and down at an optimized angle to the cylinder wall. This reduces the lateral force of the piston rings on the running surfaces, which are also processed using a special hardening and grinding process. This reduces the internal engine resistance and increases the efficiency of the engine. According to Nissan, it is 40 percent - considerably higher than with conventional direct injection three-cylinder engines and only just below the best values for diesel engines.
Thanks to these measures, the engine also runs more quietly and with 50 percent fewer vibrations than a conventional three-cylinder, according to Nissan. There seems to be something to it: Because although the unit works without a balancer shaft, it is extremely smooth running and has a subtle sound. A standard active noise suppression system also contributes to this. It uses microphones in the roof lining to measure the noise level in the interior and smooths out frequency peaks with anti-phase sound from the car's audio system.
The decoupling of the combustion engine from the drive wheels is as beneficial when driving as the theory promises: On the one hand, there is no jerking in the drive train in any driving condition, and the speed of the combustion engine does not run ahead of the actual speed as disruptively as with parallel hybrids. In the range from 1500 to 5800 rpm, it varies gradually, almost linearly, and thus harmonises with the acceleration almost as "naturally" as in conventional petrol engines.
With a relaxed driving style, the combustion engine can usually be heard little or nothing - it simply takes a break more often than expected because Qashqai and X-Trail e-POWER apparently recuperate very efficiently when braking and coasting. If the driver selects braking mode B in the three driving modes Eco, Standard and Sport, the car decelerates noticeably more than normal by up to 0.15 g. If the driver selects the e-pedal mode, up to 0.2 g are applied during recuperation. This comes close to the comfort of a one-pedal design, you only have to brake to stop.
Moved with care, according to Nissan, the proportion of purely electric driving without a combustion engine is 79 percent in the WLTP urban traffic cycle, 65 percent in intercity operation up to 100 km/h and still 29 percent with more than 100 km/h.
e-4ORCE on all fours
In the X-Trail, e-POWER, which costs only 1,500 euros more than the 163 hp mild hybrid, works exactly like in the Qashqai. To compensate for the higher weight, however, the X-Trail-e-POWER has a maximum output of 150 kW (204 hp) instead of 140 kW/190 hp.
If the buyer orders the e-4ORCE all-wheel drive, this gives the X-Trail a second electric motor on the rear axle with 100 kW (136 hp) and 195 Newton meters. As a result, the peak output increases only slightly to 157 kW (213 hp), while the continuous output specified for 30 minutes with a sustained high output requirement increases more sharply: the 66 kW of the front engine is joined by a further 45 kW at the rear.
So the all-wheel drive has higher dynamic reserves. Perhaps more important than that for some buyers is that the e-4ORCE, electronically controlled, always supplies all wheels with the optimum driving force and thus optimizes handling, traction and driving safety through torque vectoring. This happens within a ten-thousandth of a second and thus considerably faster than is possible with a conventional, non-electric all-wheel drive with electronically controlled differentials.
Adapted to the extended off-road requirements of the X-Trail, there is a hill descent control and two additional driving modes for terrain and snow with a rear-biased design and adapted slip control. The e-4ORCE surcharge? 3,500 euros.