If the Detroit auto show reinforced one thing, it’s that hybrids and alternative-fuel vehicles are the new battleground for automakers. Nissan has lagged well behind other full-line car companies in this department, but hopes to turn those prospects around in the next two years.
In Detroit, Nissan’s executive vice president for research and development, Mitsuhiko Yamashita, told the Detroit Free Press that Nissan plans to develop a hybrid that will outperform all similar vehicles currently on the market. Nissan only sells a hybrid version of the Altima, which makes use of Toyota’s hybrid technology, in a few U.S. states. It hopes to develop its own system by 2010, which it hopes will get better fuel economy and acceleration, as well as an extended range that will allow the car to drive farther than any other vehicle on the road without using the gas engine.
Nissan hasn’t indicated which vehicle will get the new hybrid system, only that it will be a rear-wheel-drive vehicle that will use more electric power than current hybrids, like the Toyota Prius — clearly the vehicle Nissan has in its sights with this project.
Interestingly, Yamashita shrugged off Toyota’s and GM’s attempts to move in the direction of plug-in hybrids, which these companies seem to think are the future of more fuel-efficient cars. The Nissan exec cited the high expense of additional battery capacity as his main doubt about the viability of those cars. While his concern may have some validity, it may also be that two years down the road Nissan will simply find itself a step behind yet again.
Nissan Says It’ll Have Own Hybrid in 2010 (Detroit Free Press)