After years of touting an electrification strategy built around series hybrid technology, Infiniti has seemingly pulled the plug on all such plans for the U.S. The newly announced change in course could delay the brand from delivering electrified vehicles in a timely manner to its largest market. The decision also comes at a period when other luxury automakers such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo are actively making the much-anticipated shift to battery-electric vehicles (BEVs).
Series hybrid technology operates without requiring plug-in power from an outside source. It is a self-contained system with a battery-powered electric motor that turns the wheels. The battery receives its charge from an onboard gasoline engine. This setup allows the vehicle to benefit from electric power without recharging via conventional EV infrastructure, which can be time-consuming and often not readily available.
This advantage alone has made series hybrid technology popular in Japan, marketed as e-Power by Infiniti's parent company, Nissan. Nissan currently makes e-Power technology available in the Kicks, Note, and Qashqai models in Japan. The e-Power technology was to be supposedly rebranded as "i-Power" for Infiniti in the U.S. and act as a stepping stone to a fully electrified lineup of offerings by easing the transition to EVs for customers wary of charge times and range anxiety.
An Infiniti spokesman called the decision a "reevaluation and reset" of the brand's product and powertrain strategy. "We took into account market trends, the regulatory environment, and most importantly, customer preferences," the spokesperson, Kyle Bazemore, told Automotive News. "We will prioritize fully electric vehicles as our initial electrified offering in the Americas, along with advanced internal combustion-powered vehicles."
Also, according to Automotive News, the automaker told Infiniti dealers that in addition to the cost considerations for implementing the technology into its models, e-Power did not deliver the performance required to be competitive in the U.S. Infiniti still plans to offer e-Power on its vehicles outside North America in the coming years. The brand says the series-hybrid systems will remain a core component of its global powertrain strategy.
Reportedly, Infiniti's U.S. retail network is now unclear on the brand's direction to compete on the EV front. As it stands now, Infiniti’s first full EVs are at least a couple of years away. They will most likely draw from the QX Inspiration midsize crossover concept and the Qs Inspiration sports sedan concept, which debuted in 2019 at the Detroit and Shanghai auto shows, respectively. But with e-Power no longer a part of Infiniti's U.S. plans, a void in the brand’s electrification efforts is sure to be felt for the foreseeable future.