EV Cars

Nissan could electrify trucks and SUVs for the USA

Not every car manufacturer follows the same strategy when it comes to electrification.

During an interview at the 2024 New York Auto Show Ponz Pandikuthira, senior vice president and chief planning officer of Nissan North America, explained to Green Car Reports the automaker’s position on where electric vehicles, PHEVs and series hybrids make the most sense.

The conversation with Pandikuthira took place days later Nissan presented its plans for hybrids, PHEVs and a three-row electric SUV introduced in the US, leading to a clearer idea of ​​which powertrains will be used in which vehicle types in the near future.

Nissan Surf-Out Concept (2021)

Nissan Surf-Out Concept (2021)

Series hybrids

Part of Nissan’s electrification strategy lies in this E-power drivetrains, that’s the automaker’s marketing pitch for a series hybrid. A small internal combustion engine generates energy to power the electric motor once the battery reaches a certain state of charge. This internal combustion engine only acts as a generator and there is no direct mechanical connection between the internal combustion engine and the wheels. The lack of a transmission and the associated complexity makes it particularly attractive for car manufacturers for cost reasons.

Pandikuthira didn’t completely rule out electric power for a pickup, but said that for a pickup with a smaller body, like a pickup the size of a Ford Maverick, the series hybrid powertrain could make sense. It would be more of a lifestyle truck aimed at city dwellers and/or surfers Nissan Surf Out Concept shown in 2021.

“E-Power really lends itself to a vehicle like Kicks and Rogue,” Pandikuthira said. A vehicle that spends most of its time in urban, stop-and-go traffic and perhaps only 30% of the time on the highway.

The executive also noted that a series hybrid is not the best solution when driving on the highway or at a constant speed of 70 or 75 miles per hour. This generator would result in poor fuel economy and it would not be a good towing experience, and he noted that the average pickup truck driver causes a lot of that on medium and large trucks.

This directly contradicts the strategy that Stellantis has pursued with the 2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger. While it has a 92 kWh battery pack that can be recharged, when empty, the Ram Charger’s generator is a naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6 that could return about 20 mpg overall on the highway. This is not the case with towing.

2024 Nissan Frontier Forsberg Edition

2024 Nissan Frontier Forsberg Edition

Hybrids and plug-in hybrids

Pandikuthira noted that large vehicles and those that spend 70% of their time on the highway would be better off with a plug-in hybrid powertrain.

“The Nissan Frontier (the automaker’s midsize pickup truck) customer doesn’t want an electric vehicle. What they want is a plug-in hybrid,” Pandikuthira said. The managing director noted that no compromises are made when towing a plug-in hybrid drive. A plug-in hybrid, with today’s battery technology, is also not as vulnerable to the extreme heat and cold challenges that BEVs currently face.

According to Pandikuthira, plug-in hybrids need a real-world range of at least 70 miles. More energetic Next generation batteries could help make that possible.

On Monday it was announced that the Next Generation Frontier will get an electric variant and a plug-in hybrid while also working with a Mitsubishi. Both are built in Mexico.

Pandikuthira told GCR that the current frontier would not readily accept batteries in terms of packaging for a plug-in or battery-electric powertrain. A next-generation truck would be an opportunity because it could be designed from day one without compromising on packaging.

2024 Nissan Pathfinder

2024 Nissan Pathfinder


Pandikuthira noted that a lifestyle pickup must cost $25,000 to $35,000, perhaps even $40,000.

“It will probably be at least a few years before we can electrify something of this scale and make the cost affordable,” Pandikuthira said, citing the possibility of either being fully electric or electric.

Pandikuthira said it makes more sense at this point to build a Pathfinder-sized battery-electric vehicle, which is a three-row crossover SUV. The executive joked that a larger pickup truck and/or a Pathfinder-sized vehicle could support the price required to install an electric drive. That price is up to $55,000 or $60,000, Pandikuthira said. According to the executive, it comes down to deciding which body style to electrify first based on customer needs.

“Electrification will still manifest, it’s just a little slower than we thought,” Pandikuthira said.

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