Essence Concept Foreshadows Infiniti's Hybrids of Tomorrow

By Editors on March 3, 2009 2:10 PM

One of the legitimate stars of the Geneva Auto Show, the stunning Essence concept coupe is also a harbinger of the future that "showcases many of the technologies, including hybrid, and design cues that will distinguish Infiniti production cars of the coming years." The bold but tasteful exterior styling of this two-passenger luxury GT is complemented by a unique asymmetric cabin configuration that employs a central divider element to create a cockpit-like environment for the driver. Beyond Infiniti's existing Distance Control Assist (DCA) and Lane Departure Prevention (LDP) systems, the Essence also introduces new safety innovations in the form of Side Collision Prevention (SCP) and Back-up Collision Prevention (BCP) technologies to extend impact prevention coverage around the entire car.

At the heart of the Essence is an advanced gasoline/electric hybrid system that's destined to see applications throughout the Infiniti/Nissan/Renault product portfolio. Here, it pairs a twin-turbocharged version of Nissan's corporate 3.7-liter V6 with a new "3D Motor" that relies on a unique layout of its electromagnetic coils and permanent magnets to generate twice the torque of a conventional design. Positioned behind the engine and between two computer-controlled clutches that engage as needed, the compact, disc-shaped 3D Motor can add another 158 horsepower to the 434 ponies being produced by the twin-turbo six to deliver blistering acceleration while allowing the Essence to operate in pure electric, pure gasoline or combo modes. In typical hybrid manner, this ultra-efficient motor/generator draws/replenishes current from a Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery pack on the fly. It also eliminates the need for a power-sapping torque converter and has Infiniti projecting a combined fuel economy figure for the Essence of 29.4 mpg.

Although this 592-horsepower one-off example shows what's possible with the system, corporate comments out of Geneva indicate that we'll see somewhat less-intense versions when a luxury coupe based on the essence of Essence goes on sale within the next 12-24 months. We suspect any U.S. version will come with a naturally aspirated V6 underhood while a thriftier six-cylinder turbodiesel would be a more probable partner for the 3D Motor in European trim.