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News > Meet the engineer who is bringing GT-R exhilaration to Nissan’s electrified vehicles

Naoki Nakada is one of Nissan’s chief powertrain engineers. He is a car lover who has had his hand in developing some of Nissan’s most iconic engines such as the VR38DETT that made the R35 GT-R so special.

As a man of many talents, he then pivoted to developing the all-electric powertrain that we see on the Nissan LEAF the worlds first mass-market fully electric vehicle. Using his experience on both ends of the motor industry he is now heading a new system aimed at giving the driver the power and speed of a sports car while also being able to enjoy the instant torque-on-demand attributes of an EV. The result is Nissan’s e-POWER system.

The Nissan GT-R is legendary in the world of high-performance vehicles with incredible handling and speed.

“When we were developing the R35 GT-R, we were not just pursuing speed, but also that satisfying acceleration feeling,” said Nakada “For GT-R drivers, there’s little that compares to the amazing feeling of putting it through its paces.”

Once the Nissan LEAD was launched Naoki realised the need to bring the “GT-R Experience” to the next generation of electrified vehicles.

“If we want to create a carbon-neutral society, we have to promote electric vehicles,” stated Nakada “An electric vehicle from Nissan should not only be environmentally friendly but also be fun and exciting to drive."

A powertrain that takes the hurdles of e-mobility
The e-POWER system acknowledges one of the biggest hurdles full electric vehicles currently face, with a still building charging network in most countries, range anxiety will prevent most people from adopting an EV especially here in South Africa. With this knowledge in mind, Nakada and his team began development on a hybrid power train to combine the performance of an electric motor with the ease of use of a conventional combustion engine.

Fuel efficiency built-in
Where the Nissan e-POWER system differentiates itself from other hybrid systems is that the electric motor is the sole power provider to the vehicle's wheels. The lithium-ion battery is recharged by a combustion engine which acts as an electricity generator. This allows for the driving experience of a pure electric vehicle without the drawback of having to rely on a charging network to keep the batteries charged up.

This set up allows for greater operating efficiency as the engine is optimised to run at a speed that serves best to recharge the battery. In general use, it will only be activated when cruising at high speed or over rough terrain thus also masking the noise it would make over a quiet EV.
"e-POWER looks like a simple system that’s easy to develop. In fact, it’s quite the opposite,” explains Nakada. “You have to get the balance right between electricity use and power generation, ensure the perfect timing for when the gasoline engine operates, and match the battery capacity to the type of car. A lot of development work went into perfecting the customer experience.”

Introducing e-POWER technology to the world
The e-POWER system first launched in the Japanese market in the Note hatchback and Serena mini-van and has since sold almost 500 000 units. 2020 also saw the launch of the Kicks crossover as a new addition to the e-POWER family. The system is now planned to slowly expand across the remainder of the Nissan range to offer customers a better driving experience without sacrificing fuel economy.

“We want to offer e-POWER to as many people as possible, as soon as possible. With e-POWER, we are giving them the full-electric driving experience, which can in turn help accelerate toward a carbon-neutral, electrified mobility world.”

Nissan South Africa has yet to announce when we can expect to see our first e-POWER models on our shores but there is no doubt it will be a hit once they arrive.