Nissan's Qashqai e-Power offers a rather different stepping stone from combustion power to EV motoring. It's an interesting confection, always an EV yet also always petrol-powered. Who needs a hybrid?
Nissan calls the Qashqai e-Power 'an electric car that you can fill up with petrol'. That sounds like a contradiction in terms doesn't it, but this powertrain really is difficult to classify. It can't be plugged in, but unlike a full-Hybrid, the engine never directly drives the wheels, its role instead being to power a front-mounted motor. Nissan calls this 'a bridging technology' that'll help transition customers to the full-EVs they'll have to live with in the future. And this powertrain will be key to the brand in achieving its targeted 50% electrification sales mix by 2030.
It's a fascinating drivetrain this. For a start, at 2.1kWh in size, the battery is about twice the size it would be in a conventional full-Hybrid. And it's topped up by a little three cylinder Variable Compression 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine that never directly powers the wheels. Forward motion is instead taken care of by single front axle-mounted motor which puts out 187hp and 310Nm of torque. Which is enough to propel the Qashqai e-Power to 62mph from rest in 7.9s. Inevitably, it only works with auto transmission, but does so more smoothly than with the CVT autos used in some full-Hybrids thanks to a feature called 'linear tune' which ties engine speed to road speed. Nissan has also engineered in its 'i-Pedal' tech, which increases energy regeneration when you come off the throttle. This doesn't slow the car as much as it would with the company's LEAF and Ariya full-EVs, but it will mean that in normal motoring, you'll be using the brake pedal a lot less.
Apart from the badgework, there's nothing to designate this e-Power variant apart from more conventional Qashqais. This third generation model is not only a sharper looking thing, it's also a little bigger too, having needed to grow in size to keep a distance from the brand's smaller Juke SUV. It's 35mm longer, 32mm wider and 25mm taller than the previous generation version but Nissan has been careful to try and maintain the compact exterior dimensions that endeared customers to the MK2 design. At the wheel, you view a 'NissanConnect' 9.0-inch high resolution touchscreen offering wireless 'Apple CarPlay' and, according to Nissan 'just about all that's available in the market' when it comes to app-based and connectivity features. Top models get a 12.3-inch instrument screen and a 10.8-inch head-up display that's the segment's largest. The centre console offers lots of useful storage and the ergonomic seats are multi-adjustable. Out back, the differences in the size of this MK3 Qashqai are really evident if you've traded up from the previous model, helped by a 20mm increase in wheelbase length. Knee room for rear occupants has grown by 28mm to 608mm. The boot (which can be accessed by a gesture-controlled powered tailgate on plusher variants) is much bigger than on previous Qashqais, unaffected by the e-Power drivetrain and rated at 500-litres in size, with a compartment beneath the floor wide and deep enough to store the parcel shelf.
Prices for the Qashqai e-Power start from around £34,000; that means an extra £2,000 over the less powerful, less efficient conventional DIGT158 2WD Xtronic model. Qashqai pricing as a whole starts from around £26,000 - or from just under £29,000 for 'Acenta Premium' spec, which is the base trim level you can have with a Qashqai e-Power. From there, the range rises through 'N-Connecta' and 'Tekna' trim levels to top 'Tekna+'-spec, for which you're looking at around £41,000 if you want it in e-Power form. There's no 4WD option with this particular drivetrain and you have to have auto transmission. Like all Qashqais, this one can also be equipped with the next generation of Nissan's 'ProPILOT' driver assistance technology. Called 'ProPILOT with Navi-link', the system is able to accelerate and brake the vehicle within a single-lane on a highway. This set-up takes care of steering duties and can adapt to things like changing speed limits. And 'ProPILOT with Navi-link' can communicate with the Qashqai's blind-spot radars to help intervene with a steering input correction to help prevent a lane-change manoeuvre if there is a vehicle in the blind-spot zone. Other features include a 'flank protection' warning for urban situations, which alerts the driver of the risk of contact with an object on the side of the vehicle, typically when turning into a supermarket parking space. And the Qashqai can also intervene to prevent a collision upon reversing from the space thanks to a Moving Object Detection alert system, which applies the brakes to stop the car if a moving obstacle is detected nearby.
Let's get to the figures. This Qashqai e-Power delivers up to 52.3mpg on the combined cycle and up to 119g/km of CO2. That's with base 'Acenta Premium' trim. With the bigger wheels fitted further up the range, the CO2 reading rises a little - to 122g/km with top 'Tekna+' trim. But that's still pretty impressive for a 187bhp engine. To give you some perspective, the base DIGT 140hp petrol Qashqai model with manual transmission only manages up to 44.3mpg and 143g/km in base-trimmed form. So how has Nissan done it? Well, the engine's Variable Compression capability allows it to adjust compression ratio (between 8:1 and 14:1), giving both optimum performance and economy depending on the engine load. During low power demand scenarios - such as constant speed with a good state of charge in the battery - the compression ratio will be at the higher range, which optimises consumption and emissions. Under high demand for power, to charge the battery or supply power directly to the motor, a lower compression ratio will be activated which will maximise the engine's power output. The transition between differing compression ratios is seamless, with no input required from the driver. Clever. Insurance is group 24E-26E.
If you take the view that a Hybrid isn't quite 'EV' enough but you're put off by the range, price and charging issues that currently afflict Electric Vehicles, then you'll be interested in Nissan's e-Power technology. And should you be seeking a mid-sized family SUV, you'll find it works well fitted beneath the bonnet of this priciest Qashqai model. Pricing could be an issue of course. For the money Nissan is asking here, you could have a Plug-in Hybrid with lower tax liability. But after looking at the e-Power concept, you might feel this clever Qashqai nails the eco-driving brief rather better than one of those. It's always an EV; yet always gives you engine range flexibility. There's a cost for that, but we can understand why you might see it as one well worth paying.
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