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Nissan Altima Hybrid: Preview -- In what may go a long way toward cementing the future staying power of hybrid-powered vehicles, Nissan recently unveiled a prototype of the 2007 Altima Hybrid, a hybrid vehicle based on the Altima mid-size sedan. The car is scheduled to be launched in 2006 for the US market. Recently, Autobytel.com had the opportunity to drive an Altima hybrid "mule" with a gasoline-electric drivetrain. (Mule is the term used for a development vehicle.) In this case, Nissan placed Toyota's award-winning hybrid-electric componentry, along with the current Altima's engine and transmission, inside the skin of an Altima. Additionally, there were large metal boxes, relaying computer-generated information to the cockpit, for engineering purposes. As a result, it was a somewhat crude ride and a crude interior, but showed the progress Nissan is making toward the development of a hybrid vehicle.
Nissan is the fifth major automaker to either introduce a hybrid to the US market or announce plans to do so. The first automaker is generally credited as Honda - with the Insight two-seater hybrid, followed by Toyota with the first mass-produced hybrid, the Prius. The technology behind Prius has powered Toyota's hybrid plans and, in fact, will play a part in launching the Altima hybrid. According to Nissan, in September 2002, Nissan and Toyota signed a basic agreement stipulating that Nissan will produce 100,000 hybrid vehicles within a five-year period, and that Toyota will supply the hybrid system components (transaxle, inverter, battery, and control unit). Nissan will develop the engine and unit adaptation.