Nissan's first entry in the hybrid market comes with a few unanswered questions.

The Altima Hybrid made its public debut at the Orange County Auto Show in Anaheim, California, today. John Weiner, director of product planning, called it "the best looking hybrid on the market," but noted that the Altima Hybrid will be offered only in eight states when it goes on sale in November.

"We thought we'd go to the markets that are most hybrid friendly," Weiner told AutoblogGreen.com. "We want to test the market and see the reaction."

The eight states are California and seven northeastern states that have adopted California emissions rules: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

You can read the full report and see lots more pictures after the jump.

Pricing was not announced at the show. Weiner suggested that the typical non-luxury hybrid premium is between $3,000 and $5,000. "I suspect we'll fall in that range," he said.

The Altima Hybrid is a result of a cooperative licensing agreement between Nissan and Toyota. But apparently this is the only vehicle resulting from that brief fling. A Japanese newspaper reported Nissan will develop an in-house hybrid powertrain that will debut in 2010.

"Officially, this is our first entry into the hybrid market and we will look at many different technologies," said Weiner while not commenting on the Japanese report.

The Nissan-Toyota deal was signed in 2002. Toyota supplied the battery and motor technology that was mated to the modified Nissan 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine.

"We had to tune it and adopt it into our car and give it a Nissan flavor," explained Weiner. Some of the upgrades to the Nissan engine include higher compression ratio and larger intake manifold.

Nissan used 6-cylinder suspension components up front to support the extra weight and retuned the rear suspension to compensate for the 245-volt nickel metal hydride battery pack.

The hybrid system has a net power rating of 198 horsepower. The gas engine offers 158 horsepower and the AC synchronous motor is rated at 40 horsepower with 199 lb-ft of torque at 0-1,500 rpm. Estimated fuel economy is 41mpg city/36mpg highway. Based on a 20-gallon fuel tank, the projected driving range can be as high as 700 miles between fill-ups. The Altima Hybrid has also been certified as an Advanced Technology-Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV).

Other features of the Altima Hybrid include regenerative braking and a digital display on the speedometer that indicates when just the electric motor is propelling the vehicle. The optional DVD navigation system includes a real-time display of the how the hybrid system directs the power.

The Altima Hybrid will be offered in one model with three optional equipment packages. Standard equipment includes electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and 4-wheel independent suspension. Comfort features include dual-zone climate control and an electrically powered air-conditioning that provides cooling when the gas engine gives way to the electric motor.

The Altima Hybrid will be built in Tennessee. Whether Nissan expands the distribution to other states or develops its hybrid fleet with in-house technology following the demise of the Toyota partnership remains unknown at this time.


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