Nissan Altima Hybrid to Launch in U.S. in 2013

In June, Nissan Motor Company announced that it would discontinue its only hybrid offering, the Altima Hybrid, at the end of this year.

In a surprising about-face, it now appears that the next Altima Hybrid mid-sized sedan may relaunch in the U.S. in 2013, sporting an upgraded, pulley-style continuous variable transmission and a front-wheel drive hybrid system.   According to some industry experts, the upgraded Xtronic CVT adaptive shift transmission alone could increase the vehicle’s fuel efficiency by ten percent compared with the transmission being used by the current model Altima Hybrid, Rogue and Maxima.

On Wednesday, Nissan demonstrated the new powertrain’s capabilities during a test drive and advanced technologies event held at its Oppama proving grounds near Tokyo.

The new system, which is scheduled to be released in 2013, will be the automakers first-ever, in-house front-wheel drive hybrid drivetrain.

The new gas-electric system will be based on the rear-wheel drive powertrain designed for the Infiniti M model. For the Infiniti M, Nissan used a supercharged four-cylinder gasoline engine, while the Infiniti is fitted with a V-6 engine. The Altima Hybrid will be equipped with a two-clutch system harnessed to a supercharged four-cylinder engine.

The current Altima Hybrid model incorporates gas-electric technology provided by rival automaker, Toyota Motor Corporation.

Senior manager of Nissan’s next generation powertrain group, Masayuki Yasuoka, would not confirm which models will get the new technology, but all indications are that the Altima Hybrid will be among them. He did, however, say that the only other supercharged model in Nissan’s stable will be a European version of its Micra sub-compact.

Nissan reportedly opted for the supercharged engine instead of a turbocharged model because it delivers a better balance between performance and fuel efficiency. Turbocharged engines also suffer from “kick-in lag” that is not found in supercharged engines.

Nissan claims that the new hybrid system will deliver power that is equivalent to a 3.5-liter engine with far better fuel efficiency.  The system’s electric motor will be powered by a compact lithium-ion battery.

The upgraded Altima would appear to be the obvious choice to compete with mid-sized hybrid sedans including the Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry.

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