Nissan has just launched e-Power, a new series-hybrid drivetrain that uses a small gasoline-powered engine to power its battery and electric motor for propulsion, the automaker announced early November.

Unlike a parallel-hybrid setup that can power its wheels by electric motor, gasoline engine, or both concurrently, series-hybrids power their wheels exclusively with electricity—though, as in the case of e-Power, that electricity is generated by burning gasoline.

The first vehicle to feature the Japanese automaker’s new drivetrain will be the Note e-Power, which will come equipped with both an electric motor and 1.2 litre three-cylinder gasoline engine underhood. The hybrid will also make use of regenerative braking to power its battery.

Nissan is positioning its e-Power drivetrain as a stepping stone to fully electric vehicles; it offers the driving experience of an EV with the convenience and driving range of a gasoline-powered vehicle. Nissan says its new drivetrain has borrowed heavily from the pure-electric drivetrain installed in the LEAF EV.

Unlike the BMW i3 with range extender, or Chevrolet Volt, the Note e-Power will not be a plug-in hybrid for packaging reasons.

By foregoing the plug-in hybrid components, Nissan has been able to install its serial-hybrid technology in a subcompact-sized car—an industry first. Without the expectation of lengthy electric-only driving range, a much smaller lithium-ion battery can be installed in the vehicle, which dramatically reduces gross vehicle weight, further improving efficiency.

The Note e-Power is expected to achieve an average fuel economy figure of roughly 4.5 L/100 km, meaning it will be competitive with parallel hybrids such as the Toyota Prius.

(Nissan)