Nissan has made a bigger bet on electric cars than any other automaker, with plans to launch its 2012 Leaf electric car globally.
But if electric cars are the future of green vehicles, hybrids are today's state of the art. And there, Nissan has lagged. It is developing its own hybrid system, but CEO Carlos Ghosn told Automotive News at the Tokyo Motor Show that Nissan will just add hybrid technology to existing models.
No special bodies
Translation: It does not plan to offer any "dedicated" hybrids, or vehicles that are sold solely as hybrids, without a plain gasoline equivalent (e.g. the 2010 Toyota Prius or 2010 Honda Insight).
2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid
Nissan LEAF Interior
Infiniti M35 Hybrid
Infiniti M35 Hybrid
Those vehicles let hybrid buyers show off the special nature of their green vehicle, unlike hybrid models of the 2010 Ford Escape, 2010 Toyota Camry, and 2010 Honda Civic that resemble their gasoline counterparts.
Today: One limited hybrid model
Nissan's sole hybrid vehicle today is the Nissan Altima Hybrid, which adds Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system to the sporty Altima compact sedan.
That car is sold only in a handful of states; it was updated with the rest of the 2010 Altima range this year.
Announced: 2012 Infiniti M35 Hybrid
At this spring's Geneva Motor Show, the company previewed its new hybrid system in the Infiniti Essence concept. That system will appear in the 2012 Infiniti M35 Hybrid, which will follow the restyled 2011 M35 luxury sports sedan by roughly a year.
In the Essence concept, a 3.5-liter V6 engine is fitted with twin turbochargers and direct injection, along with the hybrid system, for a total power output of almost 600 horsepower. The production version is likely to be detuned for less power and far better fuel efficiency.
Leaf electric car
The 2012 Leaf will be the first high-volume electric car from any major automaker.
Ford plans to offer an electric version of its Transit Connect small delivery van next year, as well as limited production of a 2012 Focus EV. But Nissan expects to sell more than 100,000 Leafs--and other electric models--within a few years.
Nissan also announced at Tokyo that the Infiniti brand will unveil its own compact electric model, and that it too plans an electric model of the upcoming NV200 delivery van to be built in Mississippi.
[Automotive News and Automotive News (subscription required)]