It isn't taking a step backwards, it is a great idea. No, brilliant idea. If you can sell a series hybrid like the Note e-Power for about $16,000, and sell say 5 times as many of those as you do the Nissan Leaf. Suddenly all your electric powertrain components get cheaper because they are shared with your "gas" cars and you are producing 6 times as many as with just the EV. Your power inverters and your electric motors all get cheaper. The manufacturer is able to sell the car cheaper as it has a small battery, no complicated automatic or shifting transmission, and no on board charger (chargers are expensive). To be fair, the components aren't identical to the Leaf, but an idea like this does allow sharing and production cost decreases.Nissan is taking a step backwards while GM is taking the step forward. It is going to copy the concept of the iBMW 3 Rex, limping home when the battery rans out. The Chevy Volt has still enormous power even when the battery rans out. Now GM is going the next logical step, the Chevy Bolt EV, a pure electric with no range anxiety at an affordable price. Nissan has gone the other way!
The engine is 80 hp so it will not have the issues that the i3 has. This is as much power as the engine in the Gen 1 Volt.
To me, doubling the efficiency of a compact car without increasing the price is pretty good.