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Far behind domestic and western auto companies, Japanese automakers are just getting into the race for electrification in India. The Honda City e-HEV carved a new niche for strong hybrids in the price segment under 20 lakh, and Toyota followed with its own Hyryder and its Maruti sibling.
Now Nissan will debut its own version of the electrified powertrain with the X-Trail due to hit the market in 2023. Here’s how the three automakers’ self-charging hybrid systems differ.
Different types of hybrid technology
Honda City’s Hybrid System: The City e-HEV has a highly efficient 1.5-litre Atkinson cycle engine at its core. The hybrid system consists of two engines with different power ratings, with the higher power engine connected to the wheels.
There is no ‘transmission’, instead the City is usually powered by the powerful engine. This system is programmed to automatically switch between EV, hybrid and motor modes depending on what is required of the powertrain at any given time. The e:HEV system is usually in hybrid mode, where the combustion engine generates electricity for the battery that powers the drive motor.
It always starts in EV mode and is mainly used for slow speed crawling and parking maneuvers. Only on long stretches of highway the City hybrid is powered solely by the engine, as it is determined to be in its most efficient form under those conditions.
Toyota’s Hybrid System: The Toyota Hyryder and Maruti Grand Vitara use Toyota’s hybrid propulsion system which also uses two motors, a generator (to charge the battery) and a higher power traction motor (to drive the wheels). Toyota developed 1.5 liter petrol engine and traction motor transfer power to the wheels via a ‘power split’ device, which consists of a planetary gearbox that can move the car using the traction motor, the motor or both .
As with the City Hybrid, the Hyryder’s strong hybrid system travels at low speeds and uses only the main e engine (with a higher power output). During acceleration and normal driving at higher speeds, both the engine and the engine remain on.
Nissan e-Power hybrid system: Nissan’s vehicles use a different kind of hybrid system that still uses – you guessed it – separate generator and starter motors. But the e-Power system makes it a little easier to understand. Simply put, the traction motor drives the wheels at all times and the motor has no mechanical connection to the wheels.
Instead, the engine is hooked up to the generator motor and will only turn on to charge the battery whether you’re driving on the highway or overtaking quickly. The main e-motor also has a regenerative braking function that allows it to recharge the battery when coasting or slowing down.
How does Nissan’s e-Power system differ?
In both Toyota and Honda hybrids, the ICE motors power the wheels at least some of the time. But Nissan’s e-Power system differs in that the engine power never reaches the wheels and it is only there to recharge the battery pack.
In other words, the upcoming Nissan Qashqai and X-Trail strong hybrids will be powered solely by e-motors, similar to EVs. Each car has a powerful e-motor and a larger battery pack compared to standard strong hybrid cars; they offer comparable instantaneous torque and seamless power delivery as any other electric car. But unlike conventional EVs, Nissan’s e-Power strong hybrids don’t require charging by plugging in and are not limited by their range.
You must have realized by now that combining an ICE engine with an electrified powertrain is extremely complicated. This is the main reason why a strong hybrid vehicle is more expensive than an ICE or even a mild hybrid car.
Hybrids are complex, but all of the above systems are developed by Japanese car brands with a robust reputation for reliability. Until the EV charging network evolves, strong, self-charging hybrids offer excellent fuel economy, uncompromising performance and versatility.