Nissan Serena hybrid JDM minivan - front three-quarter view

Nissan sells more pure electric vehicles (EVs) than any other automaker, but the EV market remains tiny. The hybrid market, while also just a small percentage of new vehicles sold, is bigger – and it's a segment where Nissan hasn't really been playing. The Altima Hybrid, for example, was killed off last year. No one really misses it, though, because Nissan is now able to get nearly equivalent fuel efficiency ratings without a battery. There are signs that Nissan is ready to change its tune on gas-electric hybrids, though, and it starts with Infiniti.

Automotive News reports that a new Nissan-designed front-wheel-drive hybrid powertrain will likely be introduced in the Infiniti JX three-row crossover "or a similar class vehicle." Then there will be an average of one new hybrid model each year, with a plug-in version of the JX/CUV in 2015. In this way, Nissan's EV advantage could pay dividends as global fuel economy requirements continue to increase. And that's the way that Nissan will have to spin this re-entry into the hybrid market, since CEO Carlos Ghosn said in 2009 that Nissan was, "not intending to play a leadership role in hybrids. One company already assumed leadership in the technology. We want leadership on EVs."

In Japan, Nissan recently introduced the Serena S Hybrid (shown above), which uses the company's less-powerful "smart and simple" hybrid powertrain. The Serena is Japan's best-selling minivan and the new gas-electric version gets around 36 miles per gallon (on Japan's lenient test cycle). That's about a 10-percent improvement over the non-hybrid model, AN reports, and a Nissan exec tells the industry paper that the company's target is to get up to a 30-percent improvement whenever a model receives its new hybrid powertrain.
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