Infiniti heading down EV street
Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa says that the Infiniti brand will offer mainly electrified vehicles after 2021.
All new Infiniti models launched after 2021 will either be all-electric vehicles or will rely on the parent company’s new range-extending electric motor-powered technology called ePower, Saikawa told an audience at the Automotive News World Congress on Tuesday afternoon.
EPower is an unusual type of electrified-vehicle system. It is not a plug-in technology. And unlike Toyota’s Prius, it uses its gasoline motor to recharge the battery, but not for propulsion. – This was the power choice in the first GM Volt.
The plan Saikawa outlined represents a rapid catchup for Infiniti. Its global luxury market competitors, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Volvo and Jaguar already have unveiled similarly aggressively electrification plans.
Saikawa predicted that half of Infiniti’s sales by 2025 will be EVs or ePower vehicles.
The brand sold 153,415 vehicles in 2017, an increase of 11 percent.
Infiniti was one of the first luxury brands to propose an EV. In 2012, the company unveiled the Infiniti LE concept at the New York auto show — a model that would have been an upgraded variation of the Nissan Leaf. But that plan was canceled as Infiniti reconsidered its global product portfolio.
Saikawa said that the electrification strategy probably will have one exception — the company’s full-size body-on-frame QX80 SUV.
The announcement comes in the same week that Infiniti presented its latest design concept at the Detroit auto show, the Q inspiration. That concept suggests the look of the next Infiniti Q70, due in 2019 or 2020.
However, the Q Inspiration was described as running on Infiniti’s advanced new four-cylinder variable-compression engine, the VC Turbo.
Infiniti executives emphasized Monday that the VC Turbo engine is envisioned as a bridge technology to electrification, which they said was in the works.
Saikawa did not address what will happen to the new VC Turbo after 2021, when all new vehicles will be electrified.
One company source said it is possible that the four-cylinder VC Turbo might power the big QX80 after that time.
The QX80 currently is powered by a 5.6-liter V-8.
A company spokesman declined to comment on future plans for the QX80.
Nissan introduced ePower in Japan in late 2016 as an alternative powertrain in its Note, a hatchback version of the subcompact Versa. The technology uses a battery-powered electric motor to drive the car’s wheels, and a gasoline engine to charge the battery.
Nissan officials have said ePower is an alternative to a pure battery-powered electric vehicle.