Nissan's hybrid surge: 15 new models by 2017
TOKYO -- Nissan Motor Co., aiming to challenge Toyota Motor Corp. in the hybrid vehicle segment, plans to expand its hybrid offerings by 15 models in five years.
Eleven of those new gasoline-electric cars will feature Nissan's new front-wheel-drive hybrid system, scheduled to debut next year, COO Toshiyuki Shiga said.
The Infiniti JX crossover is expected to be one of the first nameplates getting that hybrid layout. In a Dec. 12 preview of Nissan's environmental initiatives, the company showed a teaser shot of an unidentified mid-sized van, indicating it will get the technology.
Also on tap: A plug-in hybrid due in 2015 and three more rear-wheel-drive hybrids, based on the system currently used in the hybrid variant of the Infiniti M sedan.
The Nissan and Infiniti hybrids will draw from the following technology set: A one-motor, two-clutch drive system; continuously variable transmissions; and lithium ion batteries.
Nissan's shift to hybrids comes as the company confronts disappointing sales of its Leaf electric vehicle, which originally was envisioned as catapulting Nissan to the lead in low-emissions cars. Nissan now acknowledges a need to bulk up on hybrids, at least as a transition technology, to compete with market leader Toyota and its popular Prius line.
"Hybridization will be mandatory," Shiga said. "We can't just jump from internal combustion engines to zero emissions. We need something in between.
"This is what we anticipated from the beginning. But perhaps we have changed the prioritization."
Shiga did not name the new hybrids or say where they would be sold. But the 15 models will include new and updated nameplates. Nissan already has two hybrids on sale in Japan: the Fuga sedan, sold as the Infiniti M in the United States, and the Cima sedan.
Nissan will also boost its fleet's fuel efficiency by rolling out clean diesel technology and smaller turbocharged engines, Shiga said.
Despite the new focus on hybrids, Nissan won't be backing off electric vehicles.
In 2014 it will introduce an electric version of its NV200 minivan, the vehicle picked for use in New York City as the next-generation taxi. The Infiniti brand's first EV arrives the same year.
Nissan is also planning another electric vehicle for 2016, but it declined to identify it.
EV sales have so far disappointed. But cutting costs, improving range and expanding the charging network will be key to fueling further adaption of electric vehicles, Shiga said.
"Unfortunately, we are not catching up to our original plan," Shiga said of lagging sales. "But if we are able to use our facilities at full capacity, of course the costs will come down."
Nissan aims to halve the cost of electric vehicle drivetrains -- including the battery, motor, onboard charger and inverter -- by 2020.
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