Is Infiniti now Ready to Launch an Electric Car, After All?

Sustainable Development

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Nissan’s strong commitment to electric cars has not, so far, extended to its Infiniti luxury brand. While the six-year-old Nissan Leaf is the bestselling electric car in history, the company has repeatedly postponed plans for an all-electric Infiniti model. But Infiniti’s on-again, off-again electric car may now be back on again.

Motivated by demand in China, Infiniti is once again considering an all-electric production model, Bloomberg reports. Any electric car from the brand would be designed “for China definitely,” and China would be the first market where it would be sold, Infiniti President Roland Krueger told Bloomberg during a recent interview in Hong Kong.

Last year, China overtook the U.S. to become the world’s largest market for plug-in electric cars.

The surge in sales was due in part to generous government incentives, which have created renewed interest among manufacturers in electric cars and hybrids tailored specifically for China. Once a decision is made, Infiniti could put an electric car on sale “very fast,” Krueger noted.

That’s because it could lean on parent Nissan and its alliance partner, French automaker Renault, for technical expertise. Infiniti took that approach with the LE concept it unveiled at 2012 New York Auto Show. The LE was a four-door sedan based on the current-generation Leaf.

It used a 100-kilowatt (134-horsepower) electric motor with 240 pound-feet of torque, and a 24-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. It also featured wireless inductive charging, using a 50-kW DC charging pad that would be placed on a garage floor.

The LE received generally positive reviews at the time of its debut, but Infiniti executives vacillated about committing to a production version. If Infiniti were to revisit the LE, it could well opt for the underpinnings of the next-generation Leaf to make the car more competitive.

The next Leaf is expected to have a 200-mile range, which the Infiniti model would need to compete with the promised Tesla Model 3. But so far, Infiniti has shown more interest in improving the efficiency of internal-combustion powertrains than in developing electric ones.

At the 2016 Paris Motor Show, it unveiled a variable-compression engine, which can alter its compression ratio on the fly. Several automakers have experimented with these engines, but Infiniti will likely be the first to put one into production. It will arrive in 2018 in an unspecified vehicle as a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine.