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Infiniti bills itself as being a convention challenger, but the Nissan Motor Co. luxury-car division still sees the future of electrification much like the era of internal combustion.
At an event to mark the 30-year anniversary of Infiniti dealers first opening their doors, executives last week briefed reporters on the future products they’re counting on to revive sales. The first of five new models coming in the next three years will be the QX55 crossover coupe. It will be among the last vehicles the brand debuts that won’t offer an electrified powertrain — every model will starting in 2021.
How those electrified models are powered and marketed could be controversial among those who believe the auto industry’s future should be battery-only. Yes, Infiniti will sell pure electric vehicles to compete with the likes of Tesla Inc., but it’s also planning an alternative it will bill as “gas-generated EV.”
It’s a technology offering that Nissan’s had on the market for a few years in Japan and is marketed there as e-Power. Consumers will have to keep going to gas pumps for fill-ups, but instead of burning fuel to power wheels, the small engine beneath the hood will provide constant charge to a compact battery pack. The battery will feed power to the wheels through the same pair of electric motors Infiniti will use in its pure EVs.
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“Some customers are ready” for fully electric vehicles, Eric Rigaux, Infiniti’s global head of product strategy and planning, told reporters. “Some others are going to be so happy to know the thrill of an electric vehicle, the silence, the instant response, but without worrying about driving range or charging time. And this is the solution we’re going to bring.”
Infiniti has foreshadowed what its electrified models will look like with concepts including the QS Inspiration, a sports sedan that debuted at the Shanghai motor show in April, and the QX Inspiration midsize SUV that rolled out at the Detroit auto show in January.
The Infiniti division will use a name other than e-Power because it will be packaged differently than it has been in Nissan models, Rigaux said. The goal will be to encapsulate the engine so thoroughly with soundproofing that drivers won’t be able to hear or feel it running.
The brand is targeting 500 miles of range for its gas-generated EVs, compared with the roughly 300 miles customers view as a must for pure EVs, Rigaux said.
For Infiniti, fresh products can’t come soon enough. Sales have fallen every month this year in the U.S., and Nissan is pulling the brand out of Europe.
Before introducing another executive to recount the brand’s history, including a series of innovative engines rolled out over the years, Mike Colleran, Infiniti’s vice chairman, said at last week’s event that his team is confident about what lies ahead.
“When we talk about the present and we talk about the future,” he said, “it’s pretty clear what we’re trying to build on, or in some cases, trying to regain.”
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