A bit of power with your social consciousness? Infiniti says it can deliver both with its M35 hybrid to go into production on its 2012 model due for arrival in spring 2011. Based on Infiniti’s luxury performance sedan “M” series, the hybrid has a proprietary system by which the 3.5-liter V6 and electric motors are connected to the engine’s output shaft, and the implication is that the flow of power to the transmission would make Danny and Kenickie from Grease happy. Okay, maybe it would make the 40-year-old versions of them (replete with a PTA wife and ungrateful kids) happy, but still, Infiniti is obviously trying to make the M35 less like its hybrid counterparts that tend to lurch when they transition between gas and electric modes as well as quietly creep up on you all spooky-like.
The other Nissan-specific technology of note is this new “laminated” lithium-ion battery pack. No bigger than a standard battery, it lasts longer and the lamination bolsters the battery’s cooling abilities, making it more reliable, which would probably bring comfort to Danny’s bakesale-committee wife. But what about the greenies? Where are they on the “buy an old car to avoid using resources to make new products” vs “we need to transition at some point” argument?
Jennifer Grayson, an environmental blogger for The Huffington Post weighed in. “Can you make the argument that keeping your old, somewhat fuel-efficient car is better for the environment than buying a brand-new hybrid, once you factor in things like the energy expended for manufacturing and the nickel mined for the battery? Of course. But I believe we have a choice as a society: We can either move the market toward the super-efficient cars of the future by embracing innovative companies and their products, even if they haven’t yet achieved environmental perfection, or can we stick our heads in the sand and wish that we’ll somehow miraculously get from Point A to Point B with no evolution in between. The ultimate goal is that…these vehicles won’t be referred to as “hybrids”–they’ll just be ‘cars.’”
That debate will continue for a while, so let’s go back to the M35. I was curious about the decisions that went into producing this car, or any car for that matter, in such a tough market. I posed that question to Infiniti’s Senior Manager of Communications, Kyle Bazemore, but he didn’t seem worried. He took a more, “If you build it, they will come” approach, and here’s what he said: “If you look at our spot in the market, where our cars are all about the drive, we wanted to make a more economical, more eco-friendly vehicle, but it still has to inspire at every turn.” Ok, while I still can’t quite see it in a drag race at the reservoir, Nissan’s Infiniti brand is clearly trying to distinguish this hybrid from its brethren and lure customers to the green side with un-hybridy features, customers who are less Ed Begley, and maybe more, say, an eco-conscious Steve McQueen.