(Pocket-lint) - Nissan has been talking about e-Power since 2016, presenting a pretty unique powertrain - and changing the approach to how your car is powered.
Now that Qashqai e-Power orders are opening it's worth taking a deeper dive into exactly what e-Power offers and how it works.
Is e-Power a hybrid system?
Yes e-Power is a form of hybrid in the sense that it uses both an electrical motor and combustion engine to power the car.
But it's unique and operates differently to other hybrid systems, using electric motors to drive the wheels, rather than the engine.
So it's more like an electric car?
Yes, e-Power is closer to an electric car in that it's using electrical motors to drive the wheels and the petrol engine is providing power to the electrical system, like a generator. Unlike other hybrids, there's no gearbox/transmission, because the engine isn't driving the wheels directly.
In that sense, it's more like an electric drivetrain.
How does e-Power work?
In most hybrid cars, the engine drives the car via the transmission, as well as charging the battery, which can then power an electric motor to provide a boost to drive the car through the existing drivetrain.
In Nissan's e-Power system, the engine provides power to charge the battery and run the electric motor which then drives the wheels. As we said, there's no transmission in e-Power.
The important point is that electric motors are driving the wheels, just like in an electric car, rather than acting as a secondary system.
What are the advantages of e-Power?
The big advantage is efficiency over a conventional petrol engine. The engine in the Qashqai e-Power system is a 1.5-litre Infiniti engine using a variable compression ratio and it can run much more efficiently than in a normal car because the loads can be much better managed.
There's no gearbox because the engine is only providing power to the electrical system and the result is that an e-Power car drives like an electric car.
That means you get instant torque from the motors and a smooth delivery of that power, without any steps caused by gear changes.
Returning to efficiency, because the engine is better managed it's easier to reduce emissions while preserving a long-range for the vehicle. The official range of the Qashqai e-Power is over 1000km (600+ miles).
In our test drives, we found it would easily average 50mpg which is great for an SUV - while compared to other Qashqai models, the e-Power delivers lower emissions, more torque, power and it's faster to 62mph too!
The Qashqai e-Power has the same 55-litre petrol tank that the conventional Qashqai has and you simply refuel it in the same way.
What are the disadvantages of e-Power?
The big downside to e-Power, of course, is that you're still running a combustion engine and that means there are emissions to consider. From an air pollution point of view, it's not as green as a battery electric car.
It's a stepping stone to electric cars
Nissan very much sees e-Power as a stepping stone for drivers. There are efficiency gains, sure, but the biggest change that you'll notice is how it drives.
It's fast off the line, it's smooth and it's pretty quiet, although there's still some noise coming from the engine - it's not as quiet as an electric car.
But you have the option for EV mode (just like in other hybrids), while Nissan offers its e-Pedal too, which basically allows you to drive without having to use the brake, thanks to the braking effect of regen when you lift off.
Can you plug in an e-Power car?
No. Nissan says that this is designed to reflect the current simplicity of driving an ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle and the battery in this e-Power model is actually quite small at 2.1kWh. That means it's a much lower capacity than many plug-in hybrids.
There are two reasons for this. The first is the weight compromise and the second is cost. Batteries are heavy and increasing the battery would take up space somewhere - most likely away from the petrol tank which would affect the overall range, which increasing the weight, which would lower the efficiency.
On cost, the Qashqai e-Power in the UK is only a little more expensive than the regular version, while plug-in hybrids tend to have a much higher premium - so it's likely that e-Power will be more accessible and attract more sales as a result.
So while you don't get the advantage of having that 30-mile electric driving range that most plug-in hybrids offer, you also don't have the disadvantage of less internal space or lower overall range.
What's it like to drive an e-Power car?
We've driven the Nissan Qashqai e-Power and from the exterior, there's really no difference in appearance, apart from the e-Power badging.
The same applies to the interior - there's a slightly different drive selector (it's the same as the Ariya), but otherwise it's basically the same as any other Qashqai. You'll find a battery meter in the driver display, options to show the power flow (common on hybrids) as well as the e-Pedal and EV button we mentioned.
The real difference is in the smoothness of the driving: the e-Power system is smooth to deliver power because it's coming from the electric motor and there's no jolting between systems as can sometimes happen with hybrid systems switching from electric to combustion.
It's basically like driving a more refined Qashqai, better overall than the experience of the XTronic Qashqai - not to mention giving the benefit of greater range.
The engine doesn't run all the time and it can give a slightly awkward growl when fires up, but overall, it feels slightly more sophisticated than hybrid setups in other cars.
Of course, it's still classed as a hybrid, so in the UK, it couldn't be used in new vehicles beyond 2030 (when the ban on combustion engines comes in) - but if you're unsure about pure electric this stepping stone will highlight some of the refinement in driving an electric car, while still offering the advantages of combustion motoring.