Although Nissan has taken its Altima Hybrid off the market for 2012, the model is likely to live on.

The latest evidence: Nissan today unveiled in Japan a new generation of its Xtronic continuously-variable transmission (CVT) and a new hybrid system designed for front-wheel drive vehicles.

So far, only one vehicle has reached the market with Nissan's in-house hybrid design: the rear-wheel drive 2012 Infiniti M35h Hybrid.

But it's long been expected that Nissan will extend the system to other models and platforms, and we expect the next generation of the Nissan Altima mid-size sedan to offer a hybrid variant fairly soon after it launches.

The 2008-2011 Altima Hybrid used an older version of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system, and was sold in low numbers in only a handful of states, including California and New York.

New hybrid package

Like the Infiniti M35h system, Nissan new hybrid package for front-wheel drive vehicles uses a single electric motor between the engine and transmission, with a clutch on either side.

Nissan front-wheel drive hybrid-electric drive system

Nissan front-wheel drive hybrid-electric drive system

The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, however, is supercharged, to deliver power "equivalent to a 3.5-liter engine" with far superior gas mileage in both city and highway cycles, Nissan says.

As in the M35h, the hybrid powertrain will be paired with a lithium-ion battery pack to store energy captured during regenerative braking that would otherwise be wasted.

The electricity can then be fed back into the electric motor to add more torque to the engine output, as well as powering the car in all-electric mode under low-demand conditions.

Higher ratios, less friction

The revised Xtronic CVT is intended for vehicles with engines from 2.0 to 3.5 liters, which would encompass both inline fours and Nissan's well-known line of V-6 engines.

The company says the new design improves fuel economy up to 10 percent over previous Xtronic generations.

2012 Infiniti M35h sets Guinness record for quickest hybrid

2012 Infiniti M35h sets Guinness record for quickest hybrid

Nissan has increased the ratio between the lowest and highest gearing of its CVT to 7.0, which it calls a new benchmark for vehicles of 2.0 liters or more around the world. It has reduced internal friction by 40 percent, it says, and Advanced Shift Control adjusts shifting patterns to match driving behavior.

Coming in 2012 and 2013

The new Xtronic CVT will be fitted to Nissan models in North America starting next year, with a global rollout following shortly.

Nissan says it plans to release a new hybrid vehicle in North America during 2013. And that will be only the first of several hybrids from the company.

We rather expect the first one to be the 2014 Nissan Altima Hybrid, though it could also be one of the company's growing number of crossover utility vehicles. Stay tuned for more.


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