DRIVERS wanting to go electric but who are not ready to change to a full EV are being offered an alternative from Nissan.
The car maker has developed what it calls e-Power - a system that uses a combustion engine to generate electricity which drives the wheels.
It's available on the top-selling Qashqai and the larger X-Trail SUV and although not emission free it reduces fuel consumption significantly.
For the X-Trail the e-Power set up gives a seven-seat version an official fuel return of 42.2mpg compared to 38.2 of the mild-hybrid model while with the Qashqai the figures are even greater at 53.3 to the gallon compared to 44.1 for the regular model which is powered by a 1.3-litre engine.
In real terms the difference in overall range of the two versions is probably a more meaningful comparison and that sees the X-Trail e-Power travelling for 517 miles on a full tank compared to 462 miles while the Qashqai can manage 644 miles versus 526 miles for the pure combustion model.
We have just experienced the e-Power system in both the Qashqai and the X-Trail and the results are impressive - though shy of the official figures.
In the larger X-Trail we saw an average of almost 34mpg over several days of varied motoring while with the Qashqai we recorded an overall 46 to the gallon in similar circumstances.
The e-Power system uses a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and basically it is a super-hybrid using the combustion engine to generate electricity which drives the wheels.
In the heavier X-Trail the system produces emissions rated at 152g/km while in the Qashqai that is reduced to 120g/km. Compared to the standard combustion engine versions that's a reduction of 15g/km for the X-Trail and 36g/km for the Qashqai.
More environmentally friendly it is but it's by no means a completely green set up.
The X-Trail we sampled cost £47,405 and the Qashqai had a price tag of £39,605 which puts both at the top of their respective ranges.
Performance is lively - 0 to 62 takes 7.9 seconds in the Qashqai, 7.2 in the all-wheel-drive X-Trail which delivers 213ps as opposed to the 188 of the Qashqai. Top speeds are 105 and 111mph respectively.
Fuel tank capacity is 12.1 gallons in both vehicles and the electronics don't compromise luggage space.
Neither does the ‘e-4orce' four-wheel drive system on the X-Trail which sees the introduction of a second motor on the rear axle and both vehicles have Nissan's e-Pedal system which allows for one pedal driving thanks to extra brake regeneration - a boon in traffic.
While the X-Trail is obviously bigger inside and out the Qashqai is comfortably large enough for a family with its 479 litre boot.
A quirk of the e-Power system is the engine noise. As it's not actually driving anything but merely charging a battery there is no real correlation between the sound and what you are demanding with your right foot.
It's something you do get used to but it can be unusual at first although there is no criticism about the ride and composure of either vehicle.
With the electronics on board auto transmissions are the order of the day and the drive is smooth and refined.
Both cars are well finished and well equipped and while the e-Power system is undoubtedly clever its real benefit has to be for business drivers who will see a seven per cent reduction in Benefit in Kind taxation on the Qashqai - although the X-Trail benefits by only two per cent.
In these days of heavy prices at the pumps that has to be taken into consideration but for private drivers the attractiveness of the technology may not be quite as compelling.