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Nissan put the new Serena S-Hybrid on sale in Japan recently and now we're learning a bit more about how "smart" and "simple" the hybrid powertrain is. Nissan proudly emphasized those aspects of the powertrain when it first talked about the details of the new minivan, and now we learn that the electric part of the powertrain is used mostly to ... power the tail lights?

While Nissan is making optimistic noises about introducing its new electric car next year – with some sales apparently to start in China in 2011 – the outlook for Japan is a little more tempered and lot more hybrid. Maybe all the Japanese customers who are flocking to Nissan's green car offerings has something to do with this decision.