Unlike any other petrol-electric car on the market today, this brand new hybrid SUV is packed with hi-tech features and eye-catching looks.
Designed as a gateway drug for EV addiction, the Qashqai e-Power delivers a more potent hybrid high, with fewer side effects. Although this is not quite as Nissan puts it.
“This is the last car you should buy before you get an electric car,” said Nicolas Tschann, Nissan’s crossover marketing chief for the region that includes Australia.
“It’s electric driving without a plug in the car,” explains Lucile Laporte, regional product manager for Qashqai.
What are they talking about?
While it’s true to say that the Qashqai e-Power is a hybrid, it doesn’t work in the same way as other petrol-electric cars on the market.
With e-Power, the wheels are driven 100 percent of the time by an electric motor. Other hybrids send a combination of electric and combustion engine power to the wheels. Not always, but regularly.
At e-Power, things are different. The petrol engine is only connected to a generator.
Electricity from the generator goes to the electric drive motor or, sometimes, the system’s small capacity battery pack.
Imagine the Qashqai e-Power as an electric car with its own power station on board.
Claimed benefits include smoother, EV-like acceleration, thanks to the powerful electric motor. Nissan folks also point out that e-Power doesn’t have a continuously variable transmission, which Toyota prefers in their hybrids.
It avoids their typical exhaust drone, when the engine revs hard as the vehicle’s speed catches up. The way Nissan does it is there is a relationship between throttle pressure, engine speed and driving speed that sounds and feels much more natural.
Finally, e-Power switches off its petrol engine more often and for longer than other hybrids.
When Nissan Australia launches the all-new, slightly larger, third-generation Qashqai in Australia later this year, all four trim variants will come with a 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbo engine.
The e-Power variants, with a turbocharged 1.5 liter three-cylinder powered generator, will be launched on the market early next year. As with the current Qashqai, the new one will come from Nissan’s large British factory in Sunderland.
The Qashqai e-Power will probably only come in the top two classes ST-L and Ti, although Nissan Australia has yet to confirm this.
Pricing starts at $33,890 (before cost on the road) for the entry-level ST, rising to $37,890 for the ST+, $42,190 for the ST-L and $47,390 for the Ti. That suggests a price between $45,000 and $50,000 for the hybrid.
These prices represent a big increase over the current version of between $5300 and $8200 depending on the variant.
We tested the Qashqai e-Power on roads around the Swedish capital of Stockholm, on highways, country roads and city streets.
Although it doesn’t always give you the same feeling as driving an EV, e-Power does offer advantages. It also adds to the appeal of the comfortable, attractive and well-equipped new Qashqai.
The way it pulls away from a standstill lacks the instant urge that is typical of an EV. It takes a while for the petrol engine to deliver maximum power to the generator that supplies the most juice to the powerful 140 kW electric motor.
But once it goes above 30 km/h, e-Power performs more like an EV. There is a smooth acceleration of acceleration, similar to a single-engine battery-powered vehicle.
The Qashqai e-Power is also very quiet thanks to an effective noise canceling system. At moderate speeds it is often impossible to tell whether the petrol engine is running or not.
In stop-start traffic, the Qashqai e-Power often only runs on power from the small 2 kWh battery pack under the front seats. Driven carefully, it can cover about three to five kilometers on pure electricity.
As a result, this hybrid technology is at its best in urban and urban traffic. It’s remarkably refined and enjoyable to drive in slower-moving traffic.
With the pedal pressed to the floor, the petrol engine becomes audible.
And it’s as fuel efficient as you’d expect from a modern hybrid. After one part of the test drive, the Qashqai e-Power’s on-board computer showed a consumption of 5.2 l/100 km, very close to the score Nissan expects to achieve under the WLTP test standard.
If you’re not already addicted to hybrid, the Qashqai e-Power could be the one to change your mind. It is different from the others in some good ways. But whether it’s EV-like enough to transition to pure battery power is another question.
NISSAN QASHQAI E-POWER VITALS
PRICE $45,000 (estimated)
SAFETY Automatic emergency braking, rear intersection warning with brakes, adaptive cruise, blind spot and lane assist, driver drowsiness warning
ENGINE 1.5-litre 3-cylinder turbo petrol electric hybrid; 150 kW/330 Nm
THIRST 5.3L/100km (estimated)
0-100KM/H 7.9 seconds