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Nissan e-Power coming, but model plan unknown
Green e-Power tech locked in for Australia, but Note now looking uncertain
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12 Feb 2018
By TIM NICHOLSON in SINGAPORE
NISSAN Australia has committed to introducing its petrol-electric e-Power technology Down Under in the near future, but the company is remaining tight-lipped on its future model roll out.
As previously reported, Nissan Australia is keen to fill a number of gaps in its line-up after it discontinued the Pulsar, Micra, Leaf and Altima passenger cars in recent years, and while the Leaf EV is set to return in second-generation guise later this year, the rest of Nissan’s local line-up is unclear.
While we reported from Tokyo motor show in November that the Note e-Power light hatchback was all but locked in, GoAuto now understands that another model could usher in e-Power to Australia.
It is now believed that the Note e-Power might not be the best fit as Nissan Australia would likely struggle to bring it in at a price local consumers will accept.
Most models in the light-car segment start from about $15,000 and go up to the low $20,000 mark, but the tech in the Note e-Power would push it over its perceived rivals.
The only green-focused car in the segment is the petrol-electric hybrid Toyota Prius C, which is priced from $24,040 to $26,540, excluding on-road costs.
There was talk that Nissan Australia would bring in the Note e-Power as part of the international model’s mid-life facelift that is expected soon – the current model went on sale in 2012 – but that is now uncertain.
Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Stephen Lester said dealers were keen to see a roll out of e-Power tech, but added that he wanted to ensure there was a solid product plan before making any announcements on product.
“I would say we were just in the infancy of informing the dealers sufficiently enough around e-Power and part of that is I don’t believe in telling the dealers stories that we don’t have a solid enough plan for,” he told journalists at the Nissan Futures event in Singapore last week.
“To build up the trust with the dealers, you have to do what you say you’re going to do. And not just pretend there is the holy grail of answers over yonder without any ability or intent to get there.
“So we are in the process of solidifying that. Some of the dealers we have exposed e-Power to are tremendously excited about it.”
The e-Power system is similar to a hybrid set-up but acts as a range-extender by using an electric motor to drive the wheels while a small-capacity petrol engine and regenerative braking keep its battery pack topped up.
When asked directly whether Nissan Australia would introduce the Note e-Power to its line-up, Mr Lester said: “As soon as we can get approval for the importation of an e-Power vehicle, we will bring e-Power into the market.
Whether that is specifically the current Note or not is yet to be seen.”
Mr Lester added that he hoped timing for the roll out of e-Power tech in Australia would be “as soon as possible”, and said he was under instruction to increase sales from Nissan HQ.
“The mandate from my bosses is to increase and improve sales, and I think if you ask the dealers they would say ‘I want to sell more’. And I think if you ask consumers who are very satisfied with Nissan on a whole, they would say ‘we want to buy Nissans’.
“The question is, which ones? How do we get to them. This is of course the mandate we have got to get it here as quickly as possible.”
One of Mr Lester’s bosses, Nissan Motor Asia Pacific regional vice-president of marketing and sales, Asia and Oceania Vincent Wijnen, told GoAuto that the company was working on an e-Power roll-out for the region and added that Mr Lester was putting pressure on him to introduce it Down Under.
“It is really a very interesting technology,” he said. “People sometimes forget when your car is electrically driven, there is a lot of other possibilities as well in terms of technology. When we talk about the safety features or the more autonomous drive features, it is actually easier to adopt on an electric-driven vehicle than it is in a traditional fuel-driven car.
“Some of the stuff put on e-Power cars is no different to what we are putting on Leaf going forward.”
GoAuto briefly sampled the e-Power technology last week in Singapore where we drove the regular 1.2-litre internal-combustion Note followed by a Note e-Power and then the new Leaf.
The circuit was a small autonomous driving test facility, and the limited time behind the wheel was not intended to produce drive impressions.
However, what we can say is the Note e-Power offered quick off-the-line acceleration compared with the standard Note.
The e-Power had Nissan’s e-Pedal – which is also found in the Leaf – that essentially acts as both the accelerator and the brake. It is an odd feeling using the pedal, but as we found on the Leaf media drive following last year’s Tokyo motor show, it does not take long to adapt to it.
After jumping into the impressive new tech-heavy Leaf for a very quick spin, the Note e-Power felt like old technology.
The Note is coming up to six-years-old this year so it probably has more to do with that car’s age and the fact that it is a light hatchback built to a price.
We get the feeling that matched with the right model, the e-Power tech could prove to be a winning combination and better appeal to Australian consumers.
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