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Nissan brings electric DriveTrain to consumers

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Nissan Motor this week introduced its new drive system called e-POWER to customers. It marks the first time that e-POWER technology is available for consumers, marking a significant milestone in the electrification strategy under Nissan Intelligent Mobility.

e-POWER borrows from the EV technology perfected in the Nissan LEAF, the best-selling pure electric car in history, with more than 250,000 units sold. Unlike the LEAF, e-POWER adds a small gasoline engine to charge the high-output battery when necessary, eliminating the need for an external charger while offering the same high-output.

The technology of e-POWER

The e-POWER system features full electric-motor drive, meaning that the wheels are completely driven by the electric motor. The power from a high-output battery is delivered to the e-POWER’s compact powertrain comprised of a gasoline engine, power generator, inverter, and a motor. In conventional hybrid systems, a low-output electric motor is mated to a gasoline engine to drive the wheels when the battery is low (or when traveling at high speeds). However, in the e-POWER system, the gasoline engine is not connected to the wheels; it simply charges the battery. And unlike a full EV, the power source originates from the engine and not just the battery.

This system structure generally requires a bigger motor and battery because the motor is the only direct source to drive wheels.  This has made it hard for the automotive industry to mount the system in compact cars. However, Nissan has cracked the code and learned how to minimize and reduce weight, develop more responsive motor control methods and optimize energy management. As a result, e-POWER uses a smaller battery than the LEAF, but delivers the same driving experience as a full EV.

The benefits of e-POWER

e-POWER delivers massive torque almost instantly, which enhances drive response and results in smooth acceleration. Also, the system operates very quietly, much like a full EV. Because e-POWER relies on the engine much less frequently, its fuel efficiency is comparable to that of leading conventional hybrids, especially during around-the-town commutes. The e-POWER system allows you to enjoy all the benefits of an EV without having to worry about charging the battery.

Development history

Nissan is actively pursuing a zero-emission, zero-fatality world for driving through its EV program and autonomous drive technology. To make this vision a reality, Nissan is developing “Nissan Intelligent Mobility,” which anchors critical company decisions around how cars are powered, how cars are driven, and how cars integrate into society, all while staying focused on creating more enjoyable driving experiences. e-POWER is another step towards achieving our zero-emission vision through a new and more efficient electric powertrain.

In 2006, Nissan experienced a breakthrough in its energy management technology. Nissan’s engineers were able to reduce the battery capacity to match its competitors’ hybrid vehicles while still delivering desirable EV qualities, such as quietness and efficient energy use. In addition, application of Nissan’s technologies, such as the integration of a power-generating engine, electric motor drive for compact car use, strengthening of the powertrain’s rigidity and improvements in NVH levels, became the foundation of e-POWER and its implementation in the compact-car segment.

Nissan is committed to developing electric-powered powertrains that use various fuels to cater to the different requirements of the world’s markets. e-POWER is but one example of that quest and will strengthen Nissan’s lineup of electric-powered powertrains. Nissan is also conducting research and development of the SOFC (Solid Oxide Fuel Cell) fuel-cell vehicle, and will continue to introduce innovative new products into various areas and promote the worldwide use of EVs.

Note: The e-POWER system is classified as a series hybrid. The Note e-POWER represents the first mass-production compact segment car ever to be equipped with a series hybrid system.

Cars

Body-tracking tech moves to assembly line

Technology typically used by the world’s top sport stars to raise their game, or ensure their signature skills are accurately replicated in leading video games, is now being used on an auto assembly line.

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Employees at Ford’s Valencia Engine Assembly Plant, in Spain, are using a special suit equipped with advanced body tracking technology. The pilot system, created by Ford and the Instituto Biomecánica de Valencia, has involved 70 employees in 21 work areas. 

Player motion technology usually records how athletes sprint or turn, enabling sport coaches or game developers to unlock the potential of sport stars in the real world or on screen. Ford is using it to design less physically stressful workstations for enhanced manufacturing quality.

“It’s been proven on the sports field that with motion tracking technology, tiny adjustments to the way you move can have a huge benefit,” said Javier Gisbert, production area manager, Ford Valencia Engine Assembly Plant. “For our employees, changes made to work areas using similar technology can ultimately ensure that, even on a long day, they are able to work comfortably.”

Engineers took inspiration from a suit they saw at a trade fair that demonstrated how robots could replicate human movement and then applied it to their workplace, where production of the  new Ford Transit Connect and 2.0-litre EcoBoost Duratec engines began this month.

The skin-tight suit consists of 15 tiny movement tracking light sensors connected to a wireless detection unit. The system tracks how the person moves at work, highlighting head, neck, shoulder and limb movements. Movement is recorded by four specialised motion-tracking cameras – similar to those usually paired with computer game consoles – placed near the worker and captured as a 3D skeletal character animation of the user.

Specially trained ergonomists then use the data to help employees align their posture correctly. Measurements captured by the system, such as an employee’s height or arm length, are used to design workstations, so they better fit employees. 

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Electric cars begin to bridge the luxury gap

A new era has dawned as electric mobility bridges the gap between luxury and necessity, writes TREVOR HILL – head of Audi South Africa.

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Mobility is essential to today’s world. We travel to get to work, to go shopping, and to meet friends and family – in short, effective transport impacts on all aspects of our modern lives. Access to mobility is critical to economic growth and progress, bringing more opportunities and better productivity. At the same time however, growing environmental concerns and a looming shortage of fossil fuels have created tension between our ever-growing demand for mobility and the health of our planet.

Growing populations, increasing urbanization and economic and social development mean that there are more cars on our roads each day. The knock-on effects of this are greater levels of congestion and longer times spent commuting, which means more stress and higher levels of aggression on the road. Skyrocketing levels of air pollution – to which transportation is one of the leading contributors – has negative effects on both health and climate change, both of which are key issues in global policy agendas.

So, the writing has been on the wall for some time. The gold standard in automotive technological progress has thus been to achieve a radical reduction of engine emissions and the development of electric cars has been at the forefront of this charge. We have now entered the beginning of a new era, as more and more of these vehicles take to the roads. Electric cars are now at the cusp of the mass market, with a steady stream of new models set to reach the consumer in future. Last week, we launched the Audi e-tron, our first all-electric-drive SUV, at a world premiere in San Francisco – one huge leap forward in pursuit of our goal. Audi will also bring more than 20 electrified models to the market by 2025, from the compact class to the full-size category. Around a dozen models will be all-electric, while the remainder will be plug-in hybrids for emission-free driving on shorter journeys.

Powering this development is ongoing improvement in battery technology, with increasing energy density and lengthened driving ranges possible between charges. Consumers have noted that they feel confident using electric cars for day-to-day use once battery technology can sustain a driving range of 300 or more kilometres, which is now possible. The Audi e-tron has a range of 400 kilometers, making it ideal for long distance driving. Drivers who charge the e-tron overnight can set off in the morning in full confidence that they won’t need to stop at a charging station as they go about their day.

What this technological progress also means however, is that the levels of power and performance achieved by an electric car draw ever closer to those of traditional engines. For anyone who loves high strung, powerful engines and the rush of adrenaline that comes from flooring the throttle on an empty stretch of road, this is no small thing.  At Audi, we are lucky to be surrounded by some of the most exceptional engines ever produced, so few people understand the thrill of an extraordinary driving experience better than we do. So, the holy grail is to achieve this same performance with vastly improved economy.

The Audi e-tron’s electric drive has two asynchronous motors, one at the front, one at the rear, with a total output of 300 kW of power. This allows the Audi e-tron to accelerate from 0 to 100km/h in just 5.7 seconds.

The next step will be the development of electric cars suitable for those who regularly drive long distances, entailing further advances in battery technology, and the development of a network of charging stations across the country. The battery for the Audi e-tron is designed to last the entire life cycle of the vehicle. When charged at a high-power charging station at up to 150 kW, the Audi e-tron can be restored to 80% in less than half an hour. At 22 kW, the Audi e-tron can charge its battery to 100% in around four and a half hours.

For city dwellers, however, the age of electric mobility has well and truly arrived. Rapid advances in technology continue to drive progress; the rise of electric cars is only one of many developments set to transform transportation as we know it, heralding a cleaner, more efficient future.

 

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