Nissan has confirmed that its first hybrid will arrive in Europe in 2010, as part of its luxury, Lexus-rivalling Infiniti range.
However, at a recent preview event involving a rear-drive Infiniti M35 hybrid prototype, Nissan's Japanese project leader admitted there were still 'issues' with the company's next-generation hybrid programme. A prototype Infiniti reportedly suffered awkward power losses and jerky deceleration as its battery was recharging.
"We still have a few issues with this development vehicle," Tatsuo Abe, manager of Nissan's hybrid engineering unit, explained to Automotive News. "We need to make some adjustments before 2010."
The Infiniti prototype uses a 3.5 litre V6 Infiniti M35 with a parallel hybrid system, which aims to be more efficient than the layout used in the Lexis hybrids and is meant to offer more responsive performance.
Key differences compared with a Lexus include the use of one electric motor rather than two. It also has a pair of dry clutches instead of the planetary gearset that permanently links the Lexus's two motor-generators to its petrol engine. The advantage is that the electric engine can drive without a physical connection to the petrol engine, reducing driveline drag.
It also allows the car to be propelled at a steady-state motorway cruise by the electric motor only, further improving efficiency, while under hard acceleration the petrol and electric motors combine, via the second clutch, to enhance the car's performance.
This new rear-drive Infiniti hybrid - the first of its kind - also uses next-generation lithium-ion batteries, technology that both GM and Toyota have conceded is problematic to develop. Nissan has teamed up with Japanese electronics giant NEC and says it's solved the cooling and recharging problems that are said to plague the longer-lasting, more efficient lithium-ion batteries. Despite the problems, the Japanese firm remains confident that it can iron out the kinks and bring its hybrid Infiniti to market for 2010.