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New car technical innovations from Nissan, Volvo, Mazda and BMW


While ePOWER Nissans have been sold in Japan since 2017, the technology has just arrived in the UK, beneath the bonnet of the popular Qashqai SUV. ePOWER comprises electric propulsion only, using a 140kW motor. Yet, this is a hybrid, by virtue that a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine recharges the battery packs. Under full acceleration, or when driven at high speeds, the combustion-derived electrical energy is diverted from the battery pack to the motor directly, via an inverter. As is the convention with high-voltage vehicles, the system also boasts kinetic energy recuperation, under braking and deceleration.

While nothing novel, this engine also varies its compression ratios, between 8:1 and 14:1. The system works not using valve gear adjustments but an actuator changes the pistons’ strokes. While adopted for ePOWER, the variable compression technology was used first by Infiniti, as we highlighted last year ( genesis-new-car-technical-innovations). Unfortunately, Nissan’s luxury brand is neither built, nor available, in the UK any longer.

Nissan reports that, in low-power demand situations, such as cruising with a charged battery pack, high compression mode (combined, presumably, with low turbo boost pressures) is selected for efficiency and low emissions. Low compression situations are needed with high power outputs and Nissan reports that the compression adjustments are seamless. While the fuel consumption and emission figures are not confirmed at the time of writing, preliminary figures for the Qashqai ePOWER indicate 53mpg on the combined cycle and 119g/km.


Critics of Battery Electric Vehicles may be rubbing their hands with glee, as concerns grow about UK public charger access failing to meet projected demand. The same worries blight those of us that do not have access to private driveways and are forced to park curbside. Yet, wireless charging is nothing new. Even certain motorcars have wireless pads installed within their interiors to facilitate mobile ‘phones charging. Therefore, why can this technology not be upscaled for Battery Electric Vehicles?

Volvo thinks that it can, even for high-mileage applications. Currently, the Chinese-owned company is trialling wireless charging technology in its first BEV, the XC40 Recharge. Rather than being used occasionally, the cars will be put to work by Cabonline, the Nordic region’s largest taxi operator. Each vehicle is expected to cover at least a 12-hour shift, covering 60,000 miles per year.

These vehicles are charged wirelessly at a station, based at the company’s HQ in Gothenburg, Sweden. Recharging commences as soon as the vehicle parks over a charging pad, embedded in the ground. A 360-degree ADAS camera system is employed to ensure that the vehicle is parked accurately. The charging station energises the pad and this power is picked up by the car’s receiver unit. Volvo Cars claims that the charging speeds are four times faster than a hard-wired 11kW AC charger, although not quite as fast as a 50kW DC fast charger.

While we admit that these vehicles are not for commercial sale (yet), should the experiment be a success, it might provide a safe answer to urban issues of on-street EV charging.


With motor manufacturers desperate to slash CO2 outputs, many of them are pooling resources. More recently, several Toyota- based models have appeared that lean on the company’s self-charging, high-voltage hybrid prowess. First came Suzuki, with the Across PHEV (based on Toyota’s RAV4) and the Swace Hybrid (a tweaked Corolla estate). Now, the Mazda2 Hybrid enters the ring, looking strangely familiar…

While it looks like a Toyota and is built by Toyota, it is unsurprising that it is nothing more (or less) than an undiluted Yaris. This means that it benefits from Toyota’s fourth- generation hybrid technology, which has much in common with the same systems that are used with the larger petrol engines in the Toyota Corolla/Suzuki Swace and RAV4/Across ranges. Yet, the Mazda2/Yaris employ a 1.5-litre engine triple, which utilises Atkinson cycle variable valve timing (as is Toyota’s way) and a balance shaft to reduce the natural imbalance that afflicts three- cylinder units. Toyota also claims that this engine possesses the world’s fastest combustion speed.

Being a high-voltage Hybrid, the Mazda2/Yaris can be driven in electric-only mode and the engine can both recharge the batteries and drive the wheels. Working together, the electric motor and engine can produce 114bhp, enough to achieve 0-62mph in fewer than 10 seconds and an average of 72mpg.

Confusingly, the ageing conventionally-engined, third-generation Mazda2 (with its different bodyshell) remains on sale. Mazda justifies its decision, because it ensures that: “Our customers will have the widest choice of small cars in UK showrooms.”


While powering a relatively small coupé with a straight-six engine seems hardly revolutionary, we deem it worthy of inclusion, because the latest M240i xDrive is the only car in its class to be thus equipped. One has to hope that, in an era of engine downsizing, this is not the last Bimmer iteration of the straight-six, especially as BMW has canned its V12, Rolls-Royce models excepted.

Even so, the Germans have developed the M240i’s engine to be the most powerful in-line six in the company’s core engine portfolio. The unit was developed using the motor racing prowess of BMW M GmbH and features a closed-deck aluminium crankcase, an alloy cylinder-head, weight-optimised pistons/connecting rods and a forged steel crankshaft. The new 3.0-litre power plant develops 34bhp more than its predecessor, totalling 374bhp. The peak torque of 500Nm is also impressive, especially as it is available not at a set engine speed but between 1,900 and 5,000rpm. This explains how the range-topping M240i xDrive coupé can accelerate from 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds.

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