Is it the end of range anxiety in electric vehicles? That will be the case if a revolutionary charging technology from Nissan takes hold.
This month saw the global launch of the new 2023 Nissan X-Trail, the second model in Nissan’s European range to be equipped with the hybrid e‑Power drive system. It is comprised of an electric motor powered by a high-output battery and petrol-powered generator, which recharges the battery. The power to the wheels is produced solely by the electric motor.
It also uses a new version of Nissan’s e-Pedal, which allows the driver accelerate, decelerate and stop the vehicle using only the accelerator pedal. More significantly for EVs, it uses regenerative braking, which generates electricity when braking or decelerating.
Our test of the vehicle, during its launch in Slovenia, showed a starting range of 1000km before travelling over two days on both highways and off-road across Slovenia. By the end of the test, without recharging or filling up, the potential range had increased to a mind-blowing 1284km.
The significance of e-Power technology lies both in its range and the fact that charging time at charge stations becomes irrelevant, as the car recharges itself, via the petrol engine. The fuel tank would typically be filled once every 1500km or so. It is a normal sedan-sized 55 litre tank, requiring a standard stop at a fuel pump. And then the battery is further charged by the vehicle’s braking action, especially on downhills.
“The regenerative braking takes the energy from the roads when you’re slowing down,” says Daniel Connoly, senior engineer at Nissan technical Centre Europe. “In a traditional system you would use the brakes, which changes the energy to heat, and it’s all wasted. With regenerative braking, the torque is put back through the motor and converted to electricity for the battery.
“Effectively, you’re making the most of all the momentum that already exists. And that means that even in a country like South Africa, with limited infrastructure, you can do almost the longest possible route in the country without having to recharge.”
The new X-Trail has so many high-tech features, it would take more than a brief test drive to discover or test them all.
The fourth generation of the X-Trail, its e-Power system uses a high-output battery and powertrain integrated with a variable compression ratio petrol engine, inverter and 150kW front electric motor.
It uses a new version of Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist technology, which can take over the driving in various situation, including accelerating the vehicle to a pre-set speed on highways or slowing it down to a stop in stop-start urban traffic.
My co-driver on the launch, Edward Opoku, a radio show host from Ghana, summed up the high-tech aspects of the new X-Trail: “The car is loaded with tech. It has all the new driver assistance features that you can think about. Collision Warning, auto braking, Lane Keeping Assistance, radar cruise control, cross tracking, proximity sensors, it’s got it all.
“Because it’s an EV, essentially it carries on board its own generator. You have two electric motors, front and back. You have a battery that sits under the driver’s seat. The engine just runs at constant speed and charges the battery and the batteries power the wheels, so the engine up front does not have any contact with the wheels.
“In the driver’s cockpit, you have a 12 -inch TFT display showing you all the information in easy to understand graphs. You have a 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system that gives you Google-based maps, gives you music, gives you features, and then you also have a 360 camera system. I’m very, very, very impressed with this car.”