Curbside Newsstand: Nissan Claims 50% ICE Thermal Efficiency In Next-Gen e-Power Hybrid System; 40% Now – The IC Engine Is Far From Dead

With all this talk about banning ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars and such, it’s easy to forget that since the goal is CO reduction, there’s other ways to make serious progress on that front. And one of the more impressive bits of ICE news is that Nissan announced on Friday that its engineers are able to achieve a 50% thermal efficiency with a future iteration of its new e-Power hybrid system that has just gone into production in Japan in December, which already claims to be up to 40% efficient. That’s already a superb number, but 50% is astounding, roughly equal to the most efficient giant diesel engines powering large ships.

How is this possible?

All the exact technical details were not provided, but it’s pretty easy to work out the basic aspects. The key element is that the e-Power system is a serial hybrid, which means the gas engine only ever runs to provide power to the generator, as propulsion is 100% electric. Operating as a generator allows the engine to be set up undoubtedly to run at one fixed speed, allowing the induction/combustion process and related elements to be highly optimized for that particular speed.

From an autonews article:

“It took 50 years to increase thermal efficiency (of conventional engines) from 30 percent to 40 percent,” Hirai said.

“But with e-Power, we can increase it to 50 percent in several years. That has been the target for the engineering community,” he said, describing that level as the “ultimate, challenging goal.”

To achieve this, Nissan said it strengthened in-cylinder gas flow and ignition, which burns a more diluted air-fuel mixture at a high compression ratio.

“Without building up these fundamental technologies, we are unable to attain carbon neutrality,” said Hirai.

Nissan has already received over 20,000 orders for its Note e-Power in Japan.

And in Europe, Nissan is introducing the new Qashqai CUV only with e-Power, without a plug-in variant because its stellar efficiency allows it to meet the EU’s very strict CO regulations. Adding the additional battery capacity for plug-in operation would increase costs beyond what will be of greatest benefit to the consumer, according to Nissan.

In Europe, the very restrictive CO regulations have forced manufacturers to either build and sell EVs or plug-in hybrids, although Toyota is still selling plenty of its non plug-in parallel hybrids, at least for now. Nissan will also be selling its new Ariya EV crossover soon.

No word yet on when the 50% efficiency version of e-Power arrives as well as plans for e-Power in the US.