YOKOHAMA, Japan--Nissan Motors is trying to take the lead in electric vehicles with its battery-powered Leaf, but it is hardly neglecting the humble internal combustion engine.
Engineers say gasoline drive trains will remain the mainstay for years to come. Nissan is introducing a batch of new technologies aimed at squeezing extra fuel economy from them.
The first of these fuel-savers debuts in the United States this fall in the Juke crossover and next spring in the hybrid Infiniti M. Additional technologies will appear in other markets first.
Coming soon to North America:
A turbocharged, 1.6-liter engine with direct injection
A four-cylinder, 1.5-liter engine with dual port injectors
A continuously-variable transmission that is 13 percent lighter than the one it replaces
The curvy Juke will be the first to get the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and the new CVT. By equipping the Juke with a Turbo, it can have a smaller engine but delivers performance comparable to a 2.5-liter engine, according to Nissan. The turbo also features direct injection and reduced friction to improve efficiency.
Nissan engineers say the engine likely will be used in other models as well.
The Japanese version of the Juke has a new 1.5-liter engine with two port injectors per cylinder. The U.S. version won't be getting that powerplant, but engineers say they plan to bring the engine to North America in another model that they won't identify.
Also in Japan and some global markets, Nissan is launching a redesigned March compact car with a new three-cylinder, 1.2-liter engine and the company's first application of idle-stop technology. Nissan hasn't announced plans to bring the March to the United States, but engineers say they are studying the possible application of the engine or idle-stop to U.S. models.
Another new technology bound for the United States is Nissan's first in-house hybrid system. Nissan has been using Toyota's hybrid technology. But the Infiniti M, due next year, will get a two-clutch, one-motor system that, according to Nissan, is simpler and less costly.
Koichi Hayasaki, chief engineer of the hybrid system, said he is aiming for 90 percent improvement in fuel efficiency compared with the standard gasoline-only Infiniti M.
One fuel-saving technology not due in the United States is Nissan's latest clean diesel engine. The company introduced a clean diesel with a manual transmission in 2008 and will bring out an automatic-transmission variant in Japan this fall. But Shuichi Nishimura, Nissan's powertrain chief, said the company still isn't convinced of diesel's viability in the United States