Concept cars are a strange breed. There’s no denying they usually look amazing: all swooping lines, acres of glass, and inexplicably large wheels. The problem has traditionally arisen when the engineers unhelpfully point out practical things; things like, that low front end might be aerodynamically perfect but there’s only room for an engine the size of a walnut. Unless you’re Nissan, and you just don’t bother with an engine at all.
No, that doesn’t mean Nissan has lost the plot. It actually means it’s taking advantage of EV technology to explore different approaches to car design that would have been utterly impractical only a few years ago.
Nissan Ambition 2030 , an event held in London at the end of November, outlined Nissan’s long-term vision for a cleaner, safer, and more inclusive world. It’s essentially Nissan’s take on how car design can embrace electrified vehicles and technological innovations. As part of the event Nissan unveiled four new concept models, one of which isn’t as far away as you might think.
At the core of these concepts is the clever integration of body, chassis, and battery.
Nissan EV Technology Vision is the combination of all solid-state battery (ASSB) technology that integrates with the chassis and motors into a skateboard-like platform that allows for a variety of vehicle bodies to be bolted on top. The result is a lightweight base with a very low centre of gravity, perfect weight distribution, and powerful electric motors front and rear providing all-wheel drive.
You could turn it into an agile racer or a torquey off-roader just by bolting a different body on the top and altering the computer program accordingly. Nissan has considered the future of EVs, and how advancements in battery technology, hardware and packaging can offer customers the choices to match their needs and lifestyles.
And to prove the point, Nissan has come up with four very different ideas all based on this one platform.
The Nissan Chill-Out
It’s possible to argue that the first one isn’t actually a concept at all. Nissan refers to it as the Next-generation
Crossover EV Concept: Nissan Chill-Out
. Clearly that’s a bit of a mouthful but no doubt it will have a catchier name when it actually arrives. And this one will arrive. If you look closely you’ll see it bears a remarkable resemblance to the Nissan Ariya, an all-electric crossover SUV that’s due to hit UK roads next summer. It’s still got the oversize wheels of a concept car, but it’s essentially the next (or maybe next, next) generation of the upcoming Ariya.
More in line with the traditional idea of concept cars are the three other creations Nissan has revealed. Again, the names are not going to stick but they do give you a pretty clear idea of what the designers were thinking: Max-Out, Surf-Out and Hang-Out.
Nissan goes Out-Out
is a convertible that is all about the driving experience. The two-seater features the unique ability to morph the seating, flattening into the floor to offer more interior space when desired, making it ideal for drivers with and without passengers. More importantly, the EV base is perfect for a lightweight, agile sports car with a low centre of gravity, and the all-wheel drive provides plenty of grip and traction. Underneath the futuristic design is the promise of incredible handling.
The Nissan Surf-Out concept aims to provide a smooth ride regardless of the terrain, allowing you to go anywhere in comfort and with confidence. No doubt Nissan has named it the Surf-Out because the marketing images will look good on a beach with a few surfboards leaning against it, but it could equally be called the Mountains-Out, or the Woods-Out. It’s essentially a go-anywhere, all-wheel drive pickup truck with a large and easily accessible load bed. It also gives you the ability to draw power from the battery via the vehicle’s variety of power outputs so you can still take a little bit of civilisation into the wilderness.
The Nissan Hang-Out concept aims to defy conventional wisdom about interior layouts and is aimed at providing a new way of spending time on the move. We think this is where some of the science fiction bit comes in. Apparently the car is designed to suppress vibrations and jolts while working on the go, and the low, flat floor allows the designers to offer the comfort of your living room in a mobile space. Nissan also mentions “on-the-go movie nights with family and friends”. There’s also mention of Advanced ProPilot, which is Nissan’s autonomous driving system. Whether the intention is to park up on the beach and turn it into a home cinema, or binge on Netflix while the car takes itself for a drive isn’t clear.
In fairness to Nissan, that’s not really the point anyway. This isn’t necessarily a showcase of the types of EV you’ll be driving in the next 10 years. The switch from internal combustion engine to electric motor is a massive paradigm shift for the automotive industry.
It doesn’t take a huge amount of imagination to remove the fuel tank and engine from a car and replace them with batteries and motors. You don’t even need to make that many fundamental changes to achieve it. Look at some of the cars on sale at the moment and you’ll see that the EV, hybrid and petrol/diesel variants are identical in terms of design. At the moment, manufacturers are restricted to producing a car large enough to fit an engine even if it’s going to be an EV version.
Nissan has simply viewed that shift as an opportunity to completely rethink the way cars are designed, and to embrace the new technology in a different way. Once the need to leave space for a bulky engine has been removed, it becomes much easier to create a wider range of completely different body styles that all fit on the same platform. More choice for you, efficient production for Nissan , and everybody wins.
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