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Infiniti developing gasoline-powered electric vehicles -- yes, really

Two new advanced powertrains are coming to a shared vehicle platform.

Infiniti's new crop of EVs should look something like this. 

Yes, you read that headline correctly. As part of a big electrification push, Infiniti is creating a series of EVs, some of which will be powered by gas.

At first blush this may seem completely nonsensical, but Infiniti's logic and strategy are both sound. "Two powertrains built on one all-new platform. This is the way we have decided to move into electrification," Eric Rigaux, general manager of product strategy and planning at Infiniti, told Roadshow at a media event last week. One of these will run purely on electricity, the other is a so-called gas-generated EV.

That petroleum-burning propulsion system should offer the best of both worlds, marrying the benefits of an internal combustion-powered vehicle, like quick refueling and long driving range that's unaffected by weather conditions, with the upsides of an EV, things like immediate torque, near-silent operation and greatly reduced emissions. This should bridge the gap between conventionally powered vehicles and cleaner-running, though somewhat compromised electrics.

A production version of the Infiniti QX Inspiration concept should help drive this brand into the future.

Steven Pham/Roadshow

Even though these propulsion systems are fundamentally different in operation, there's still a high level of commonality between them. Both will be offered in a shared vehicle architecture that will underpin future Infiniti models including an all-electric SUV presaged by the brand's QX Inspiration concept, and a luxury sedan with a gas-generated EV drivetrain styled like Infiniti's Qs Inspiration design study.

Infiniti's gas-generated EV drivetrain will never need to be plugged in. Vehicles equipped with one won't even have a power port. Instead, a small gasoline engine will generate electricity to run the vehicle or charge its modestly sized battery pack.

A new version of Infiniti's variable-compression, turbocharged engine, one with three cylinders and a displacement of 1.5-liters, should deliver a steady stream of electrons. It will provide series-hybrid functionality, meaning the engine never directly powers the vehicle's wheels, it only charges the battery or runs the drive motors. According to Rigaux, the more common parallel hybrid system is "more of a past solution" for them as they move forward to better, more efficient drivetrains.

Thanks to the arrangement of its reciprocating components, this groundbreaking, variable-compression engine is inherently very smooth, requiring no balancer shafts to quell undesirable vibration or harshness. Ensuring it's all but invisible to the driver, Infiniti engineers are fully encapsulating it, plus they're developing a special way of fitting it into the vehicle using fluid-filled mounts. This is all in an effort to make sure it's virtually silent. Beyond that, vehicles equipped with this powertrain are expected to benefit from active noise cancellation.

So much technology in such a small package! Powerful and smooth, Infiniti's groundbreaking variable-compression engine is a gem.


Since gas-generated, EV-equipped vehicles will predominantly run on petroleum distillates, they don't require a particularly large battery, nothing near the size of what comes in your typical electric vehicle these days. According to Infiniti, all they need is a pack roughly 3.5 to 5.1 kilowatt-hours in size, though this will vary based on model.

As with many pure-electric vehicles, acceleration with this gas-generated EV powertrain should be brisk. With two motors on board, one at each axle providing all-wheel drive, it's estimated this system will deliver between 248 and 429 horsepower. That's enough to accelerate a vehicle from 0 to 62 mph (100 kmh) in as little as 4.5 seconds.

Another benefit of Infiniti's gas-generated EV powertrain is lower emissions. Nasty byproducts should be significantly reduced, likely because the internal-combustion engine can run at its most efficient speed for any given load.

With an inherently efficient drivetrain and a full tank of gasoline, Infiniti says a vehicle powered by this setup could offer a maximum driving range of 500 miles, though nothing is official yet.

Infiniti's gas-generated EV powertrain is quite innovative, though its pure-electric platform is expected to be much more conventional, with an underfloor-mounted battery pack for the lowest-possible center of gravity, multiple motors providing all-wheel drive and a spacious interior afforded by more efficient drivetrain packaging and a reduced number of mechanical components.

Nissan Twin-Motor EV

Infiniti could learn much from this twin-motor Leaf electric car its parent company Nissan is developing.


The battery capacity of Infiniti's upcoming EV platform is a big unknown right now, but given current industry trends, they will likely have to deliver at least 300 miles of range on a single charge to be competitive with rival models. Of course, even more would be preferable.

Infiniti's new battery-operated propulsion system should launch in an upcoming SUV, while its gas-generated EV powertrain is expected to debut in a new luxury sedan. No official launch date for either of these vehicles has been provided, but they are expected to hit the market only a few months apart.

The styling of each vehicle has been hinted at by several concept cars, though they should each be dressed in Infiniti's new "Powerful Serenity" design ethos. This is said to incorporate sheer lines and powerful proportions, with origami-inspired creases.

"We are a challenger brand," said Rigaux. Over the three decades it's existed, Infiniti built a reputation "as a performance brand with fun-to-drive vehicles." Hopefully, these new powertrains are worthy enough to live up to this standard.

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