Many motorists see the inherent appeal of electric mobility: efficiency, less pollution, and gratifying performance. There is the big elephant in the cabin—range anxiety. With only a handful of charging stations in the whole country, and home charging taking hours if not days, the appeal seems destined to remain just an idea. But what if you could get all the benefits of electric drive with no need to recharge externally?
Enter the Nissan Kicks e-Power. This is a compact SUV propelled by an electric battery and motor. Plus it has a gasoline engine on board, solely to recharge the battery. The engine, essentially an onboard generator, extends the range of the Kicks to 900+ km per 41-liter tank of fuel. Since there are gas stations everywhere, range anxiety is eliminated, too.
We took the Nissan Kicks e-Power for a short spin around the Entertainment City area to see how it lives up to our initial expectations. Curbside were five Kicks e-Power cars in various colors. It’s a credit to the Kicks’ modern design with a hint of sportiness that it looked good in any shade, particularly the dark blue. We plop ourselves in the driver’s seat and face a cabin that’s handsome, ergonomic, and very conventional. This is one of the few times that we wish that a car’s design would be more extroverted, given the innovative technology that’s underneath it all.
One of the few hints that this is an electric vehicle is the stubby “gear” selector—more like a drive switch, actually. In a nod to the conventional PRNDL automatic arrangement, sliding the lever forward engages Reverse, and rearward, Drive. There’s no noise when we push the start button, save for a soft click as the power comes on. We engage drive mode and are off to a smooth, silent ride. After a few hundred meters, the gasoline engine fires up to charge the battery. It’s a 1.2-liter three-cylinder unit. As it runs at an optimally efficient rpm, it’s audible but certainly not obtrusive. Premium gasoline is not required—regular gasoline will be just fine. Nissan quotes 22 km/liter efficiency and a 900+km range on a single tank.
With the battery topped up, the SUV was ready for action. We immediately feel the torque even with a conservative press of the pedal. There’s an instant 280Nm on tap, so acceleration is brisk and spirited. Going up to 100kph on a short stretch of road is effortless.
Key to the Kicks’ efficiency and performance is in how you operate the accelerator pedal and select drive mode. Whenever you release the accelerator, the powertrain switches to regenerative mode, to capture the kinetic energy and use it to recharge the battery. There are two forward drive modes: D (drive) and B (brake). B engages the regeneration mode more heavily, giving the feel of the engine brake on an internal-combustion engine. When used in appropriate situations, say on road with plenty of downhill sections, the car can extend battery range further. For most driving, you can use just the accelerator to control the car, with less braking needed—the so-called “One Pedal Driving.”
Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility system includes a 360-degree monitor to assist with parking and maneuvering. Forward collision warning with intelligent emergency braking, vehicle dynamic control (stability control), and six airbags complete the safety package. The audio unit includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
The best and perhaps most surprising part of the Kicks is its price: it starts at P1.209 million. It’s certainly reasonable given the all-electric technology and on-board convenience features. The Kicks e-Power is covered by a 5-year warranty for the mechanical and electrical systems, including of course the e-Power unit.