China Floods EV Market as Nissan & Honda Rev Up Hybrids

Qashqai in thick of electric SUV competition

Tue 09 Apr 24


In the world of motoring there’s a left, a centre and a right.

Let’s say petrol is left, hybrid is centre and all-electric is right (or is it?).

This driver is definitely ‘middle-of-the road’, so if there mut be a battery then it must be hooked up to the good old ICE – a personal choice after an EV test just before Christmas ‘shut down’ on the side of a main highway. Scary stuff, with future EV drives approached with anxiety and trepidation.

Nissan’s Qashqai Ti e-Power ST (tested here) is bucking the EV trend. In fact, both Nissan and Honda are reducing their vehicle production capacity in China as the Japanese carmakers struggle to keep up in the EV race against Chinese rivals.

After talks with a joint venture company, Nissan will slice its manufacturing capacity in China by 30%, equivalent to 500,000 cars annually. The company’s eight factories in China build around 1.6 million cars but this has dropped to 24%, year on year, falling below one million for the first time in 14 years.

Honda is reducing its annual capacity in China by 20% to around 1.2 million vehicles.

Over at Toyota, its sales in China in 2023 fell 2%, year on year to 1.9 million cars as the company moves away from EVs, strengthening its offerings of plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs). And Mitsubishi says it is also pulling out of China while Mazda is restructuring its joint venture business there.

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Fresh, new interior… Qashqai brings a 12.3-in. touchscreen infotainment system, wireless Apple CarPlay, satellite navigation with live traffic updates and seven airbags for a five-star ANCAP safety rating.

China’s new vehicle sales in 2023 stood at 25 million units, making it the world’s largest market, with sales 50% greater than the US, the next largest car buyer. China also has the largest fleet of EVs and is ahead in terms of the use of information technology in cars.

Meanwhile, Tesla, a prominent player in the EV industry, has reported a nearly 10% sales slump. This marks Tesla’s first sales decline in nearly four years, attributed by some experts to various factors, including market dynamics and consumer preferences.

So, Japan and Korea are steaming down the hybrid highway.

But back to Nissan and the Qashqai e-power system – a high-output battery, inverter with a 140-kW electric motor driving the wheels. A three-cylinder turbo-charged petrol engine generates the electricity to power the system., the result a powertrain that delivers instant and linear acceleration providing a pleasurable, effortless, smooth drive without the need to recharge.

e-Power, Nissan’s hybrid technology, is filtering through its global portfolio, driving like an EV without the need to plug in.

There’s a turbo petrol engine, which it doesn’t actually drive the wheels directly. Instead, it’s hooked up to an inverter, which itself is linked to a small lithium-ion battery and an electric motor, with the ICE motor serving as a generator to keep the battery charged.

It’s different to the hybrid drivetrain concepts at Toyota and Hyundai-Kia; the e-Power range is akin to and EV without the big revs of a Toyota-style hybrid that shifts between power sources.

The Qashqai e-Power is pitched in the thick of electrified SUV competition, across the likes of the Toyota Corolla Cross and the Hyundai hybrids, as well as Toyota’s RAV4 the Kia Sportage hybrids.

Unlike the X-Trail, there’s no dual-motor all-wheel drive option. This single-motor variation is meant to be more efficient, with a quoted 5.3L/100 km on the combined cycle versus the X-Trail e-4orce’s 6.1L/100 km.!

The Qashqai e-Power arrived in Australia solely in top-spec Ti trim, which carries a $4200 premium over the equivalent Qashqai 1.3T and is priced from $51,590 plus on-roads.

Nissan Australia doesn’t quote an official 0-100 km/h time, though the UK division lists a 7.9-second dash to triple figures, not hot-hatch fast, but pick up is a noticeable improvement over the standard turbo petrol version.

Lots of soft-touch, padded leatherette surfaces, high-quality upholstery and high-resolution displays all combine to offer a tangibly upmarket ambience.

A big 12.3-in. touchscreen infotainment system features wireless Apple CarPlay and satellite navigation with live traffic updates, AM/FM/DAB+ digital radio, as well as USB-A and USB-C connectivity up front.

The Ti also has wireless smartphone charger and a quality 10-speaker Bose premium audio system, in addition to a 10.8-in. colour head-up display and a 12.3-in.TFT digital instrument cluster with configurable views and menus.

In the boot, Qashqai remains one of the largest in the class with 452-litre luggage capacity with the rear seats upright, expanding to 1376 litres when folded.

The Qashqai earns a five-star ANCAP safety rating, based on Euro NCAP tests, which applies to all variants in Australia and New Zealand.

There’s seven airbags front and centre, autonomous emergency breaking, pedestrian/cyclist detection, intelligent around-view monitor and moving object detection.

The Nissan Qashqai was named Australia’s Best Small SUV at the Drive Car of The Year Awards last year.


  • Orson Whiels

    Orson Whiels has been a motoring writer for many years and was motoring writer at Queensland Country life in the 1960s-70s and then motoring editor at Australian Timberman.)


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