A kick in the right direction

Published August 9, 2022, 12:05 AM

by James Deakin

ON FOR THE ROAD

James Deakin

I finally took the plunge. After years of telling myself I would, I finally got an EV. And boy am I getting a real kick out of it.

Meet the all-new Nissan Kicks ePower. The first fully electric vehicle that doesn’t need to be plugged
in. And for my maiden drive in my new ride, I joined a convoy of 15 other Nissan Kicks for the official media launch and headed to Bicol to see if I could do it on a single tank of gas. Ok, ok, I know how that can be confusing. How can it be an EV if it has a gas engine? Doesn’t that make it a hybrid?

Well, no. Not really. Because the main difference with e-power technology is, the Kicks only uses the gasoline engine to charge the battery, while the electric motor drives the car. Think of it like a generator.

But the clever part here is that the gasoline engine is just one source of auxiliary power generation, and it’s also the last resort. For the main regeneration of power it relies on an e-pedal step, which is a special type of throttle pedal that creates resistance when you lift off the pedal and slows the car down. It is no different in concept to a slot car; if you ever played with that as a kid, you’ll know there are no brakes, just lift off the throttle and the car stops. The friction that is generated by the resistance is harnessed and turned into energy that is stored in the battery.

Formula One fans got to know this as the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS), and the most awesome
part is that it has now found its way into the Kicks. It is less aggressive than the original e-pedal they put in the leaf that would literally bring the vehicle to a stop—exactly like a slot car–but the new generation offers different resistance modes so you can find one that suits you.

I’ll admit that this took a bit of getting used to because we’re used to just lifting off the gas pedal and coasting to a stop. Smoother, yes, but Nissan saw that as a wasted opportunity to create energy.

Besides which, after a few miles—and a little jerkiness in the beginning—it becomes intuitive and you start getting used to modulating the pedal. And after a few days, it starts to feel completely natural and you end up wondering why all vehicles don’t use this technology. It’s kind of like the automatic hold feature on the electronic parking brake (which it also has) that keeps the car at a full stop until you tap on the gas; once you get used to it, you wonder how you ever lived without it.

But the main intention of the epower technology is to solve one of the biggest hurdles to mass adoption of full electrification—especially here in the Philippines: range anxiety.

Because the reality here is, almost everyone out there wants an EV, they are just waiting for more charging stations and infrastructure before they commit. While infra developers want more EV owners before they commit to more charging stations. Starting to see the problem? Who goes first?

This is why Nissan developed this technology to serve as a bridge to full electrification by addressing
the pain points or fears by combining the best of both worlds—which is a fully electric driven vehicle that never needs to be plugged in.

So how much gas does the kicks actually use then?

From my own personal experience, anywhere from 30-35 kms a liter in the city depending on how
careful you are with the e-pedal step. But it’s very safe to say 20 kms per liter is a very realistic figure for
those who aren’t paying attention to economy, especially after I was able to get 25 kms a liter with four
people and their luggage on board all the way to Bicol.

So is it the right time to make the switch? Personally, it’s a hell yes from me. Gas prices will only continue to rise and so will air pollution. And while we are waiting for all the infrastructure to kick in, the Nissan Kicks provides the most convenient shortcut to a cleaner and greener future. Think of it as a kick in the right direction.

 
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