After the success in Japan, e-Power technology is coming to Europe with the Qashqai. A transition solution to the all-electric that has everything to build, with a little delay.

Launched in 2012, the Nissan Note was never able to surpass sales in its homelands, leaving Toyota Prius and Aqua (Prius C in other markets) to share the cake and icing. But Yokohama quickly found the secret of this success and in 2016 presented the e-Power engine, a unique hybrid technology.

He has always invested in his philosophy Zero Emissions, the Japanese brand has developed a system in which it is only the electric motor that drives the wheels, charging the internal combustion engine to act as a generator. A first attempt and a master stroke: the Nissan Note in its declining phase regains its momentum and climbs to first place in all categories (excluding kei cars) for two consecutive years, shortly before its retirement. It took until 2019 to see the first glimpses of this technology for Europe, when Nissan unveiled the IMQ Concept, which then foreshadowed the Qashqai e-Power. Years later, the compact SUV, on which the success of his Sensei namesake, is a reality with us.

Like an electric in the city

However, the brand’s engineers worked to overhaul their copy. Rather suited to an urban minivan and finally consistent with the expectations of Japanese drivers, the first iteration comes from the test lab (although the shape is quite similar on the new generation of Notes). From now on, the small engine has given way to a complex turbo unit with variable compression ratio via mechanical actuator. The power supply scheme is similar with the presence of a generator, inverter, battery and electric motor from Japan, but unprecedented on a car of the brand according to officials.

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It is the latter, with a maximum power of 190 hp for 330 Nm of torque, which takes care of spinning the wheels directly, as on any electric car. There is therefore no clutch or gearbox. In the city or at low load, it is therefore the electric drive that prevails. This is conditioned by the battery charge rate, which allows for an operating range of 25 to 75%, and the power required, as the unit can only produce 60kW (80hp) of power on its own.

With the two conditions met, we were able to travel 3.6km with the power of the electric motor alone without exceeding 60km / h and without resorting to regeneration. In the city, expect less, the acceleration of this 1,700kg SUV is necessarily energy-intensive. To perfect peaceful emissions-free developments, the e-Pedal system is added to B-mode. As on the Leaf, it effectively reinforces regenerative braking. But if the name of the button is the same, it is more exactly the new e-Pedal Step, which does not stop: it slows the car down to around 5-10 km / h before putting down your arms. The goal here is to improve movement at low speeds (such as when parking), by preventing the system from applying the brakes too often and suddenly.

A Nissan Qashqai e-Power that masters its voice

While on classic hybrids (such as on Toyota) the electric motor interventions disappear, here it is always connected to the wheels. Because it is the heat engine that begins to fill the power deficit by providing a maximum of 110 kW to the generator power. During this stage, it can also recharge the battery with excess power, which in most cases it is.

Depending on the needs, it automatically sets the optimal rotation speed to produce the current necessary for the correct operation of the system. But while the Nissan Note had a lag between engine rpm and throttle position / speed, the Qashqai is here equipped with the linear melody, which allows you to vary the revolutions more smoothly. It’s like a codec that would correct the gap between sound and image. In practice, the feeling is really less disturbing than before. Under heavy loads, the number of revolutions is unavoidable, but still more or less in line with the performance. In more intensive use, the shifting is more pronounced, but the vocalizations are less audible than in a planetary gear transmission.

A little laziness on the covers

The Nissan Qashqai e-Power shines with its elaborate soundproofing, at least between the engine compartment and the cockpit, with rolling noise quite present on the sides and rear. It is coupled to a Active noise reduction, which counterbalances some frequencies in the cabin with the audio system. Music lovers and acoustics will no doubt tell you how it works and if it is – really – effective. The fact remains that a normal ear will find its account on slopes or during frank accelerations. But this is where the shoe pinches.

This mechanism, which should take advantage of all the immediacy of the electric motor, has a response time quite close to a traditional and somewhat lazy automatic gearbox. As soon as the accelerator pedal is pressed at stabilized speed, the battery reaches the maximum power threshold very quickly. This is where the heat engine has to do its job. But its mechanical system requires an adaptation period to vary its compression ratio. The result is then a slight lag in the recovery phase, which does not allow it to do better than its 158 hp mild-hybrid counterpart: we measured 80-120 km / h in 6.1 s, without the useless Sport mode manages to significantly improve performance (-0.2 s).

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During a rather favorable mixed route both in terms of terrain and speed of evolution, we found an average consumption of 5.4 l / 100 km. Or the equivalent of its WLTP consumption, where it is also supplied for 123 g / km of CO2. On the highway, where the energy flow from the heat engine will be constant, the appetite will be greater. But it would also be interesting to know the overconsumption generated on our motorways, the ones we borrowed in Sweden do not exceed 110 km / h, that is little more than in Japan.

Because it is on this ground that an electric motor is the least comfortable in terms of consumption, unlike a thermal block. That’s why Honda’s i-MMD system (which functions as a stock hybrid between two stages) connects the petrol engine to the wheels via a multi-plate clutch between 80 and 120 km / h (range is wider in reality). What Qashqai e-Power does not do. But let’s not enter into speculations for the moment, we will have the opportunity to take it on our favorite courses to draw up a final evaluation.

A preserved habitability

For the rest, the Qashqai e-Power is perfectly similar to the other models in the range. Having been designed and developed the CMF-CD platform to receive the e-Power engine, the appearance of the battery (located under the front seats) does not cut the interior volumes. There is a trunk from 455 to 1,582 l, the same 55 l tank and an always welcoming rear compartment.

Small novelty in these new years with slight aesthetic changes to the passenger compartment and the appearance of a new central rectangular 12.3-inch touch screen. The equipment is always complete at the different trim levels. The N-Connecta finish offers only some comfort equipment packages (heated seats, steering wheel and windscreen, etc.) or technology (ProPILOT system). Few stylistic options remain in the top-of-the-range Tekna + version.

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In terms of driving, its liveliness is maintained. There is also the multi-link rear, quite lively for those who want to put more heart into the corners than necessary. The comfort on board is of good quality, but it will undoubtedly be necessary to prefer 19-inch wheels to preserve it: tremors are present at low speeds while some deformations are clearly felt on bad roads. The steering is quite direct on the roads, but the steering angle is important in the city.

Nissan Qashqai e-Power: the results

Like the Nissan Note, the Qashqai e-Power is in the midst of an existential crisis, juggling between a definition of electric and hybrid range extender, depending on the advantages it wants to highlight. At the wheel, however, its maturity required to win over European customers makes it more than ever a hybrid vehicle, both on a gray card (EH category) and while driving. The marketing discourse is also shy, even if Nissan does not hesitate to mention the 1,000 km of autonomy or the concept of electric that does not recharge.

In the city we certainly find all the fluidity and silence of emission-free traction operation. But it is difficult to qualify as an electric vehicle, as it only travels 3 km and within a limit of 81 hp, before the thermal comes to the rescue. And at higher speeds, instantaneity wears off. In any case, we will have to play a return game of a long journey to measure its real consumption. Because this is where he will have to test himself, to make people forget the diesel that contributed to the huge success of the SUV, leading customers towards 100% electric. Great mission, then.

Waiting for the next Honda ZR-V, which should probably take over from the Civic engine to bridge the gap between the HR-V and the CR-V, the Nissan Qashqai e-Power should mainly be scrapped with the Toyota CH-R. But let’s not forget the new Kia Niro HEV which is entering the segment with a length of 4.42 m similar to the Qashqai: equipped with the usual hybrid mechanics and more traditional driving sensations, it attacks at 31,790 euros, when you need to count from 38,200 € for the Japanese. Which sometimes equates to the top of the range of its competitors!

  • Neat soundproofing
  • Convincing e-pedal model
  • Correct habitability
  • Generous equipment

  • Built-in electric drive
  • Response time in attempts
  • Traditional cabin
  • Salty price list

Do you want to know more about ePower technology? See you tomorrow morning at 8 for a full article on how it works!

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