Nissan is working on modifying its existing hybrid drivetrain for front-wheel-drive models, including the next Altima hybrid which could debut as early as 2012. According to Automotive News, the new system will be a derivation of the rear-drive hybrid powertrain employed by the Infiniti M35h.
The Nissan brand currently has only one hybrid model, the Altima Hybrid, but that car is being discontinued after the 2011 model year. Currently, it uses a licensed version of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive technology, which is found in several models, including the famed Toyota Prius. Nissan’s only in-house hybrid technology is found in the 2012 Infiniti M35h.
Automotive News says Nissan is adapting that rear-drive Infiniti hybrid system to work in a front-wheel-drive car. It could bow in the next Nissan Altima Hybrid as soon as 2012. As in the Infiniti, the front-drive setup will mate an inline-four gasoline engine to a continuously variable transmission and a single electric motor/generator. In the M35h, the electric motor is rated at 67 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque.
The hybrid system uses lithium-ion batteries, which could be assembled in the U.S. Nissan plans to open a new lithium-ion battery assembly facility near its Smyrna, Tennessee factory to build battery packs for the Leaf electric car. It could potentially provide enough extra capacity to build batteries for a new hybrid car.
Although Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn appears to be enamored with full-electric cars like the Leaf, AN reports that Nissan will use traditional hybrid technology to improve fuel economy in larger vehicles, like the D-size Altima.
Jake Holmes on June 21 2011