While the Altima Hybrid won't be part of the 2012 Nissan lineup, the automaker has just released information that appears to bode well for its return in the not-too-distant future, and for improved fuel economy numbers across the full spectrum of Nissan's small to midsize front-drive vehicles. The news involves the creation of a new hybrid system as well as a dramatically-improved next-generation of its XTRONIC CVT (continuously variable transmission). Both were demonstrated earlier this week in Japan, fitted to an existing Altima Hybrid prototype.

On the XTRONIC front, the re-engineering process has yielded a transmission that Nissan says will deliver up to 10-percent better mileage numbers than its current-iteration CVT. That efficiency boost comes primarily from two key upgrades. The first involved an internal redesign of the basic belt and pulley configuration to create the broadest effective ratio spread of any CVT in a vehicle with an engine 2.0 to 2.5 liters in size. Complementing that enhancement, a more compact oil pump, the use of lower-viscosity oil and optimization of nearly 60-percent of its component parts led to a 40-percent reduction in internal friction. The new XTRONIC also features intelligent Adaptive Shift Control circuitry that give a more natural "feel" by better matching engine revs with vehicle speed as the car accelerates. This upgraded XTRONIC variant is set for introduction here sometime in 2012.

While full details on the new hybrid system are a bit more limited, Nissan has confirmed that it is a front-drive-specific variation on the package introduced on the Infiniti M35h Hybrid, complete with its own unique advanced lithium-ion battery pack. This first application matches a 2.5-liter supercharged in-line-4 engine with a specially-modified version of the new XTRONIC CVT that also incorporates one electric drive motor and two clutches that can allow the vehicle to operate in gasoline, electric or hybrid power modes. Nissan claims this particular iteration of the system delivers the power of a 3.5-liter engine but with far superior city and highway fuel economy numbers. Equally important, it was designed to be used in any conventional platform without modification to the architecture, a fact that would seem to open it up for use in any number of other applications, naturally aspirated as well force-fed. Although stopping short of admitting we'll see this new hybrid system here first in the next-generation Altima Hybrid, Nissan has confirmed it will launch "a new hybrid vehicle in North America in 2013, and later in global markets."

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