Not wanting to be the only automaker sitting on the sidelines when it comes to environmental initiatives, Nissan has developed a North American version of its global “Nissan Green Program,” aimed at managing the automaker’s CO2 footprint. The plan, which seems eerily similar to the Kyoto Protocol, calls for cutting CO2 emission levels on the manufacturing side by 7% through 2010, while exceeding the myriad of fuel economy regulations enacted by politicos across the globe. To achieve the vehicle emission and fuel economy goals, Nissan plans to boost efficiency of its internal combustion engines through the use of gasoline direct-injection technologies on 4-cylinder engines, along with the addition of direct-injection and Variable valve Event and Lift (VEL) on 6- and 8-cylinder engines. VEL continuously adjusts valve events and lift amounts using a DC motor that changes the fulcrum of the links attached to the cam shaft. Nissan claims VEL—to debut on an Infiniti model by the 2010 model year—will reduce CO2 emissions by 10%, while boosting engine torque by 10% and improving fuel efficiency at an equal pace. “We believe that we can still attain a 30% efficiency improvement on the internal combustion engines in the near-term,” said Mark Perry, director of Nissan sedan and cross carline product planning-Nissan North America. Additional improvements in gasoline engine performance will come from the use of continuously variable transmissions and more efficient turbos, operating on the Atkinson cycle with high-compression and low friction. Perry also said Nissan plans to have BIN5-compliant diesel engines installed on select vehicles in the U.S. by 2010, with the Titan pickup expected to lead the way. The diesel engines will utilize a particulate filter, NOx absorption catalyst, oxidation catalyst and urea-based treatment system to comply with emission requirements.
Nissan plans to launch a series of hybrid vehicles using a system developed in-house by 2010. The automaker currently relies on Toyota technology for the 2007 Altima Hybrid—sold only in the eight states that have adopted California’s emission regulations: California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Work is also underway on plug-in hybrid systems and fuel cells. Nissan plans to have its next-generation fuel cell stack operative by the end of 2010. Electric vehicles are also part of the initiative, with Japan taking the lead on development and testing of new systems. “We believe there is definitely a future for electric vehicles but you have to get the battery performance to improve, along with improvements in motor and inverter reliability and cost,” Perry said. While Nissan has a laundry list of programs underway to boost its green credentials, the automaker does not have plans to expand availability of the Altima Hybrid beyond the eight initial markets. Perry also said there are no plans to install the current hybrid system on other Nissan or Infiniti products in the near-term, even as Toyota and others expand their hybrid offerings.—KMK