While its main Japanese rivals, Honda and Toyota, are both working on their next-generation of dedicated hybrid models, Nissan is heading down a different route and is looking to all-electric vehicles to differentiate its offerings in the increasingly competitive ‘green’ segment. Toyota is less than a year away from releasing its third-generation Prius, while Honda is hard at work preparing an all-new hybrid model for October’s Paris Motor Show.

Nissan, meanwhile, is testing a prototype for a new all-electric vehicle it plans to launch in 2010. The carmaker is also developing its own proprietary petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, but according to one senior executive there won’t be any dedicated hybrid model using this technology. Speaking with the Associated Press, Nissan’s R&D chief, Mitsuhiko Yamashita, said the hybrid system will only be used in models already available as a conventional petrol-powered cars.

Hybrids, he said, will soon be so commonplace they will no longer be the conspicuous-consumption status symbols they are today. Yesterday the carmaker revealed a hybrid prototype vehicle based on the current Infiniti G35 sedan (pictured) – one of the first vehicles expected to feature Nissan’s proprietary hybrid technology.

Yamashita wasn’t willing to reveal which models would be available with a hybrid option, but hinted that the next Nissan Z car as well as midsize sedan will be the likely choices.

In the next couple of years, competition in the hybrid and electric segments is poised to explode as advanced models from nearly every major carmaker are expected to hit showrooms. Some of the more exciting models currently in the works include the new Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and a Mercedes-Benz S-Class hybrid.

Nissan's next-generation of hybrid and electric vehicles