Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km

Arvind · Nov 25, 2021 11:00 AM

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 01

Electric vehicles or EVs are increasingly billed as the catch-all strategy that will offer efficient and cheap motoring to the masses.

But the truth is, EVs are not for everybody.

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 02

In the absence of proper charging infrstructure (at least for now), Nissan's answer is e-Power, which promises all the benefits and efficiency of electric driving, without the drawbacks of charging limitations and wait times. 

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 01

We tested the (E12) 2017 Nissan Note e-Power, and not the 2020 Note e-Power currently on sale in Japan

After recently testing the 2017 Nissan Note e-Power and achieving an overall fuel economy of just 2.8-litres/100km, we think they might be right. 

The 2017 Nissan Note reviewed here belongs to Edaran Tan Chong Motor (ETCM), graciously loaned to us to sample e-Power drivetrain, therefore this is not a review of the car, which is already one generation too old versus the current Note.

How does Nissan e-Power work?

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 02

Nissan's e-Power shares many common components with its Zero Emissions EV powertrain 

By definition, the Nissan e-Power drivetrain is a series-hybrid unlike Honda’s i-MMD and Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive systems, which are series-parallel hybrids.

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 03

Honda and Toyota hybrids are series-parallel (full) hybrids. 

What this means is that the engine in Nissan's e-Power doesn't drive the wheels, as opposed to series-parallel hybrids where the engine can also drive the wheels and charge the electrical system. 

Instead, the internal combustion engine operates at one of two fixed engine speeds - the points where engines are most efficient - solely to charge the high voltage battery.

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 04

It's essentially an electric car that carries its own generator. 

Isn’t this called a range extender EV?

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 05

Well not exactly, because Nissan's e-Power drivetrain doesn't require you to plug-in and recharge the battery, it is recharged solely by the engine.

Additionally, unlike a range extender EV, Nissan e-Power also doesn't require a large-capacity battery to store charge, thereby reducing weight and complexity. 

If we compare the Nissan Note e-Power to the BMW i3 REx (a range extender EV), the Nissan Note features a 1.5 KWh battery versus the i3's 42.2 kWh battery. 

The smaller battery is also why the Note can be sold a lot cheaper (price in Japan is comparable to a Jazz Hybrid).

In doing so, one can drive and refuel the Nissan Note e-Power just like any other car. 

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 06

The Nissan Note e-Power is ‘powered’ by HR12DE 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine that produces 79 PS and 103 Nm.

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 07

The Inverter channels electrical energy from the generator to and from battery and traction motor

The engine spins a generator that sends power to the battery. The main traction motor itself produces 109 PS and 254 Nm.

Also read: Review: 2nd-gen Nissan Leaf – Perfect introduction to EVs

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 08

The Nissan Leaf has a more powerful traction motor but shares much of electrical architecture with the Note e-Power 

The ‘EM57’ motor as it’s called is a less powerful (but similar in design) unit to the 150 PS / 320 Nm traction motor featured in the Nissan Leaf EV

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 09

The unit we tested features a small secondary motor on the rear axle that aids acceleration and traction in slippery conditions

Driving experience?

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 10

The best part of Nissan’s e-Power is you get all the benefits of an EV vehicle – quiet operation, immediate torque, and smooth cruising – without any range anxiety associated with charger availability and wait times.

It’s the best of all words quite literally! And it’s an inspired bit of engineering if you ask us.

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 11

During our acceleration tests, the Nissan Note e-Power actually bested the times set by the City RS. Helped of course by a quick launches courtesy of its secondary motor, in AWD mode.

With the secondary motor engaged, the Note e-Power accelerates from 0-100 km/h in just over 9.30 seconds, beating the City RS' best time of 10.2 seconds (as tested).

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 12

The Note e-Power offers three different drive modes – Eco, Normal and Sport – which crucially adjusts the power delivery and energy recuperation rates during coasting and braking.

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 13

Normal mode feels like any other car, but once in Eco and Sport mode – recuperation is increased significantly allowing for Nissan’s trademark one-pedal driving style.

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 14

While it isn’t exactly scary, it may feel unnatural at first - imagine cruising in fifth gear, and suddenly dropping to second gear as soon as you lay off the accelerator pedal, this is how it one pedal driving feels. 

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 15

A crucial tradeoff of the e-Power's drivetrain is lower top speed.

The Note e-Power tops out at 155 km/h (like the Nissan Leaf), which granted, is slower than Perodua Myvi 1.5L in outright top speed, but that says nothing about the power on tap at lower speeds.

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 16

From a standstill, the Note e-Power offers meaty and punchy acceleration off the line, torque is on tap as soon as you hit the accelerator and it will keep accelerating with stellar ease up to speeds of 130-140 km/h rather quickly.

To give you an impression, the overall pace of which the Note e-Power accelerates could keep up with most 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated vehicles, perhaps even quicker than most.

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 17

Whilst we are specifically reviewing the powertrain and not exactly the Nissan Note in this case - remember this is the previous generation E12 Note - we can tell you that the overall performance and practicality makes the Note one of the best hatchbacks to drive in the city or even longer journeys.

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 18

It helps too that the Note is very well designed, has brilliantly comfortable seats and is rather surefooted hatchback to drive.

Save the noticeable groan from the engine at low speed (to recharge the battery), the Note e-Power offers decent cabin quietness levels. 

2017 Nissan Note e-Power - Cabin noise levels
60 km/h 60 dB
90 km/h 63 dB
110 km/h 70 dB

Fuel consumption?

Eco and Sport modes can greatly alter the amount energy receives and thus extract more EV driving range depending on the road that your on.

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 19

During our road test – we clocked a total distance of 109.0 km journey broken down to 60% highway, 40% city driving, the amount of fuel required to brim the tank was 3.057 litres.

This gives a calculated fuel consumption figure of just 2.8-litres/100 km or roughly RM 6 for 100 km of travel.

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 20

By comparison, the Honda City RS we also tested recently returned an impressive 5.2-litres/100 km, with a best of 4.2 litres/100km conducted in a separate test.

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 21

Fuel economy test results of the Honda City RS pictured

Yet it’s nowhere near the e-Power’s test numbers, though it must be said, Honda i-MMD is stronger in the mid to high speeds, where the e-Power tapers off.

Conclusion

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 22

Completing our road test with the City RS just a week before we drove the e-Power gave us a clear perspective on the execution of both cars.

Notwithstanding, whilst the Honda i-MMD is more advanced and offers a far broader range of drivabililty – Nissan’s e-Power proves just how simple a hybrid really needs to be.

Keep in mind though, that e-Power drivetrain is best suited for smaller cars with low-power demands. This is why its used in models such as the Note and Kicks, but the larger X-Trail doesn't use e-Power.

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 23

Honda i-MMD two-motor full hybrid powertrain picured

Also read: Review: 2021 Honda City RS e:HEV – Hybrid perfomance for the common man

With that said, for smaller cars such as the Note, there is no better solution than e-Power. 

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 24

It perfectly fits what most ordinary Malaysians need to experience first because it offers drivers the ease of electrified driving without the drawbacks. 

Given its simplicity, it skips the complex and expensive step to plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) whilst still being extremely fuel efficient, something most ordinary drivers will appreciate. 

Nissan Note e-Power: We drove Malaysia's most fuel-efficient car that you can't buy (yet); 2.8L/100km 25

While ETCM isn't saying anything about whether will e-Power be launched in Malaysia, the fact that they loaned us their internal evaluation unit does say quite a lot, without having to say anything.

Also read: The 2021 Nissan Note is a rival to the Honda Jazz, but it’s struggling to reach Malaysia

Also read: Nissan Kicks e-Power launched in Indonesia; Malaysia in 2021?

Arvind

Writer

Arvind can't remember a time when he didn't wheel around a HotWheels car. This love evolved into an interest in Tamiya and RC cars and finally the real deal 1:1 scale stuff. Passion finally lead to formal training in Mechanical Engineering. Instead of the bigger picture, he obsesses with the final drive ratio and spring rates of cars and spends the weekends wondering why a Perodua Myvi is so fast.

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