Most automakers keep their new cars hidden under sheets or in back rooms before their press conferences, but not Nissan. The 2014 Pathfinder Hybrid was on show all day because, as a spokesman quietly admits, the crossover looks virtually identical to the standard V-6-powered Pathfinder.
In fact, the only visual differences for the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid are a set of "Puredrive" and "Hybrid" badges. The visual similarities between the V-6 and hybrid models make sense, though, given that the Pathfinder Hybrid overall is quite similar to the normal version. It returns the same acceleration, has the same interior and cargo space, and offers similar towing capacity as the normal Pathfinder -- but with much improved fuel economy. And because Nissan expects the Pathfinder Hybrid will only cost about $3000 more than an equivalent non-hybrid model, there is no horrific price premium for improved economy.
Launching the Pathfinder Hybrid fits in with Nissan's goal of building more hybrid or electric models. "Some type of electrification will power most vehicles in the future," predicts Nissan executive vice president Andy Palmer. "That's the way the market is going."
That's not to say Nissan isn't also interested in other power sources. Palmer says Nissan will launch its first mass-market fuel-cell vehicle by 2017. The technologies for such a car are being co-developed with Europe's Daimler and Ford. Working with three automakers on three continents will help the trio standardize hydrogen fueling procedures, eliminating the confusion created by several competing electric-car charging standards. Sharing development will also cut costs and help make the fuel-cell car more affordable.
Still, establishing a hydrogen-fueling infrastructure will prove a major hurdle. Palmer expects it will be even more difficult than launching an electric-car charging network for one simple reason: electricity is already available almost everywhere, while hydrogen would need to be transported to fueling stations.
For those keeping track at home, Nissan also announced today that it has sold 55,000 units of the Leaf electric car globally.