Nissan Altima Hybrid to End Production, New Hybrid Model Possible

The 2011 model year will be the last year for the Nissan Altima Hybrid, currently the Nissan brand’s only hybrid model, according to Automotive News. Considering that the current gas-electric Altima uses borrowed technology from Toyota, and that Nissan has developed its own hybrid system, first used in the 2012 Infiniti M35h Hybrid, killing off the Altima Hybrid could simply mean Nissan is clearing a path for a new in-house engineered hybrid model.

Since it was introduced in 2007, the Altima Hybrid has sold only about 35,000 units total -- partly due to the fact that the car is only sold in the states that adopted California’s stricter emission guidelines. (Those states are: California, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, Vermont, Oregon, Rhode Island, Maine, and New Jersey.) The hybrid system that debuted in the 2012 Infiniti M Hybrid uses lithium-ion batteries, as opposed to the NiMH batteries in Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system, and was developed completely in-house at Nissan.

While Nissan won’t say exactly what it has in store for its future hybrid models, the automaker, under the command of CEO Carlos Ghosn, has made clear its intentions of becoming a leading seller of electric vehicles. “We’re going heavily into electric vehicles right now,” said Nissan product spokesman John Schilling, referring to the recently launched Nissan Leaf EV. “But we are moving into other power technologies for the future, including hybrid.”

Talking about other possible applications for the new hybrid system in the M Hybrid, director of product planning at Nissan North America Mark Perry said, “We’re going to cascade it through where it makes sense.”

As Nissan is investing $1.6 billion to build a lithium-ion battery plant in Smyrna, TN, also the proposed site for Leaf production by late 2012, the case for more lithium-ion-based hybrids in the future is made stronger. The plant will have the capacity to produce 200,000 battery modules a year -- or just about 50,000 more batteries than it can build Leafs for.

Although the current Altima Hybrid will get the axe, you can count on another hybrid model to fill the gap it leaves in due course.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

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