Nissan Motor developing a hybrid system for smaller cars as an interim solution to improving mileage before full electric vehicles take over according to R&D chief Mitsuhiko Yamashita.

He said the automaker had not made a final decision about small and mid-sized hybrid vehicles but added the technology might be necessary for consumers who need fuel-efficient, all-purpose cars that have the same driving range as conventional petrol or diesel cars.

Yamashita said that while the best option would be for zero-emission electric vehicles to cover all needs, he admitted this could take some time.

Reuters noted that a rollout of hybrid cars would signal a major shift in strategy for Nissan, which has been looking to take a lead in the production of EVs.

Despite the increasing popularity of petrol-electric hybrids in Japan, Nissan has remained cool on the technology, planning only an internally developed hybrid system for low volume, high end cars such as the Fuga sedan and Infiniti models from next year.

Earlier this month the Nikkei business daily reported that Nissan was planning to launch a hybrid version of its Serena minivan in 2011.

Along with alliance partner Renault, Nissan wants to be the first automaker to mass-market EVs.