Nissan preparing to launch hybrid Infinity

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Published: July 6,2010

Tags: automobile industry, manufacturing, retail

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Nissan is readying a new hybrid system for its Infiniti luxury model, set to go on sale later this year, while revamping technology for regular gas engines to send a green message.

Nissan Motor Co. is a leader among global automakers in zero-emission electric cars, with its Leaf being rolled out in a few months time.

But its engineers said today that green offerings for conventional cars are in the works because vehicles with gasoline engines still make up the bulk of Nissan’s models.

Among them are idling stop, which turns off the engine when the vehicle comes to a temporary stop such as at a traffic light, and a unique way of injecting fuel into the engine to boost mileage.

The main attraction of the presentation at global headquarters was the hybrid technology for the Infiniti, sold as Fuga in Japan, which comes with two clutches, allowing the vehicle to coast along as an electric vehicle longer than if it came with one clutch.

The Infiniti M35 Hybrid would be Nissan’s first mass-produced gas-electric hybrid.

Yokohama-based Nissan, allied with Renault SA of France, declined to disclose the mileage for the hybrid but said it will be comparable to a compact, which would translate to about double the mileage for a sedan.

Nissan did not give a price but promised it would be reasonable, saying the two-clutch hybrid system is relatively cheaper and simpler compared to rival hybrids, partly because it requires only one motor instead of two as in Toyota Motor Corp.’s hybrid system.

European rivals are working on hybrid technology similar to Nissan’s.

Corporate Vice President Shuichi Nishimura told reporters the automaker is also making engines lighter and reducing friction in moving parts.

All that will be packed in the remodeled March subcompact, also known as the Micra, rolling out later this month in Japan, he said.

But whether a technology will be offered elsewhere will depend on demands for each region, officials said.

Features like idling stop — which other Japanese offer including Mazda Motor Corp. — are good for stop-and-go traffic common in Japan and Europe, but not for the U.S., they said.

In Japan, 20 models, or slightly more than a third of Nissan products, are categorized as green, said Takao Katagiri, senior vice president.

“We want our customers to recognize Nissan as having a wide range of progressive ecological cars,” he said.

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