2010 Nissan GT-R

2010 Nissan GT-R

The development and launch of the current R35 Nissan GT-R was an epic achievement for the Japanese automaker. After all, Nissan was able design and engineer a sports car capable of outperforming exotic supercars with pricetags twice as high or more, as well as make it seat four adults in relative comfort while being easy to drive on a daily basis.

Engineers working on the next-generation of the car, the R36, expected to arrive in late 2012 as a 2013 model, certainly have a tough act to follow. But according to latest reports they may have an ace up their collective sleeve: a switch to hybrid or all-electric power.

Nissan is focused on reducing the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of its entire lineup, from the base Sentra right up to luxury models from Infiniti and even the GT-R supercar.

While economical gasoline powertrains make sense in models like the Sentra, in order for performance models like the GT-R to remain viable, they may have to switch to cleaner options. Top of the list for Nissan is all-electric power.

Nissan has yet to sign off on the final design for the next-generation GT-R, and there is a chance that the model line could be dropped altogether. However, during a recent interview with Autocar, Nissan chief operating officer Toshiyuki Shiga revealed that the GT-R nameplate will most likely remain and that an electric version could still be sporty.

"I can’t commit to any new products but, as far as we know, we are keeping this brand, these technologies, and trying to offer sporty cars. I am also thinking of electric vehicles as sporty cars,” he explained.

Shiga's statements are anything but outright confirmation of the super-electric vehicle, but his considerations of an electric sports car mixed with a desire to keep the GT-R badge alive do make a mild implication.

We've previously seen reports that the GT-R could go hybrid, so perhaps the leap to all-electric isn't as wild as it might seem. In fact, the car’s chief engineer Kazutoshi Mizuno has previously revealed that the GT-R will eventually ditch its gasoline-only powerplant and switch to an alternative.

More than any other maker, Nissan has placed its bets firmly on electric vehicles. Its all-electric 2011 Nissan Leaf launches in Asia and selected U.S. markets before the end of the year, and Nissan and its alliance partner Renault have said repeatedly they expect to build 500,000 battery electric vehicles a year by 2012.

Also on the way: An electric Infiniti luxury car, most likely a compact derived from the Leaf; an electric Nissan small commercial van; and other models yet to be revealed. Is an electric GT-R one of them? Stranger things have happened.

[Autocar via Motor Authority]