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Nissan Building A Plug-In Hybrid

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On: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 9:09AM | By: Chris Weiss

Nissan Building A Plug-In Hybrid

When Nissan confirmed that it's developing its own hybrid powertrain earlier this month, there were two ways of thinking about a potential plug-in hybrid. On the one hand, it would only make sense to merge the pure hybrid system with the all-electric powertrain of the Leaf to develop a plug-in system that's greener than the Altima Hybrid, but farther-driving than the Leaf. On the other hand, since Nissan was the first major automaker to commit to an electric vehicle, and because the Leaf has had a strong sales start, handily outpacing the Chevy Volt, maybe it would make more sense to focus all R&D efforts on all-electric technology, which offers the greatest long-term potential for clean vehicles.

Well, Nissan is going the safer route, admitting to Reuters that it will launch a plug-in within four years.

Nissan says that it will dedicate about 70 percent of its investments, or close to $4 billion, on research and development of environmental technologies between now and 2017, by which time it plans to have sold 1.5 million electric vehicles.

Nissan's plug-in hybrid may actually beat its front-wheel-drive hybrid, most likely a redesigned Altima Hybrid, to market. According to Reuters, the plug-in will launch in 2015, while the FWD hybrid will follow in 2016 or 2017. Of course, Edmunds reported last week that the FWD hybrid will launch in 2013, which seems more likely.

Nissan is also hard at work on developing fuel-cell technology, which uses hydrogen fuel to create electricity. Nissan has joined forces with Daimler in researching fuel cells and hopes to have a vehicle ready sometime after 2015.

Nissan didn't go into any details on the layout of its plug-in hybrid powertrain, but it will likely offer some combination of the Leaf's all-electric powertrain and the upcoming hybrid powertrain, which will pair a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor.

While building a plug-in hybrid vehicle after a fully electric Leaf may seem to go against the prevailing wisdom that plug-ins are a good stopgap on the way to the better battery technology needed for a more practical generation of EVs, Nissan is broadening its green cars in an effort to boost its fleet's fuel economy numbers by 35 percent.


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