Nothing as logical as a power source that drives the wheels. But that does not necessarily have to be the fuel engine, as BMW demonstrated a few years ago with the i3 Rex. In that model, the motor served as a generator for the battery. In a sense, that idea is now being followed by Nissan in the form of their e-Power technology.

Nissan has put electric driving on the map. The Leaf was already introduced in 2010 and where some brands still have to launch their first electric car, the Japanese brand is ready for the second generation of the model. Nissan wants to continue with a new management led by Makoto Uchida, says design boss Alfonso Albaisa.

"By 2022, we want to have eight new all-electric models on offer and deliver one million electric cars a year. The new e-Power drive also plays an important role as an alternative. In Europe, fully electric, e-Power and plug-in power than half of the sales. "

The so-called e-Power powertrain consists of a small lithium-ion battery and a 1.2 liter petrol engine, which works as a generator and provides energy. The three-cylinder never drives the wheels directly, not even at higher speeds. BMW used a similar principle with the i3 Rex by mounting a two-cylinder engine from a maxiscooter.

The most important difference is that the engine in the BMW was primarily intended as an emergency unit to keep the battery level enough to reach the next charging location. That is different at Nissan, where the engine is used as a generator. The battery pack of the Nissan is therefore considerably smaller than that of the BMW; 1.5 kWh compared to fifteen-fold for early versions of the i3.

"The BMW i3 was designed from the drawing board as a fully electric car. In our eyes, the Rex was a necessary, but well-functioning, compromise to remove the fear of action from the consumer in that early phase. With the further development of the battery and now from it we can offer the third generation sufficient action radius for a very large target group, as a result of which the range extender no longer offers enough added value, "said PR manager Andrew Mason. The Rex version has not been available for some time.

The combustion engine (l) of the i3 Rex, placed next to the electric motor (r). (Photo: BMW)

Quiet and fairly economical

Thanks to the use of a small battery, a well-known petrol engine and the electric motor from the Leaf, the e-Power technology can in theory be produced reasonably affordable. The technology is currently packaged in the Nissan Note, but according to an employee of the development department it would also fit in the Juke or Micra. In addition, the alliance partners Renault and Mitsubishi could also have access to it in the long term. The Nissan Note e-Power is already running in Japan.

The fuel engine in the Nissan Note testauto is in the background in the city and on roads. If more performance is required and therefore more energy needs to be generated, you will hear the three-cylinder. the e-Power also offers a position where it loads less and gives preference to the drive motor. It gives an effect that looks more like a 'normal' version with gasoline engine.

Then the consumption. Nissan mentions 1 liter at 34 kilometers for the e-Power Note in the Japanese government test. Of course we could not empty a tank, but based on the action radius in the dashboard, it will come out in the normal driving position with a slightly spicier driving style around the one in twenty. It gives a range of approximately 700 kilometers.

The development department is already testing again with an even more efficient turbo engine for the e-Power powertrain.

The full story was in AutoWeek 46.