Nissan, Infiniti reinforce their electric futures
Nissan and Infiniti as a group provided the most powerful collective view of the future of mobility at the 2019 North American International Auto Show at Detroit’s Cobo Center, showing two all-wheel-drive concepts hinting at both brand’s future offerings in electric vehicles. The Nissan IMs sedan and Infiniti QX Inspiration SUV are just the latest hints at what’s in store from the company, which in 2017 embarked on its M.O.V.E. six-year plan targeting an extension of its self-proclaimed leadership in EVs, as symbolized by the best-selling all-electric Nissan Leaf.
During the NAIAS press conference revealing the IMs, Denis Le Vot, Senior Vice President, Chairman of Management Committee, Nissan North America, Inc., also announced that, following the debut of the longer range 2019 LEAF e+ at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nissan will launch an additional seven electric vehicles by 2022.
The e+ version of the Leaf refers to the increased energy density of the model’s similar-size battery pack. Along with a higher-output powertrain, the car’s range is increased by about 40%. Subtle clues to its e+ designation include a revised front fascia with blue highlights and an "e+" logo plate on the underside of the charge port lid.
Also reinforcing the Leaf brand at CES, the NISMO RC electric race car version made its North American debut with more than double the maximum power and torque output of its predecessor. Developed by Nissan's racing arm, the racer features dual electric motors, advanced battery technology, all-wheel drive capability, and an aggressively restyled body. With an electric motor on each axle, total vehicle power is 240 kW, with 640 N·m (472 lb·ft) of instant torque to the wheels.
Nissan IMs sedan
The Nissan IMs concept “represents the birth of an entirely new segment of vehicle—an elevated, electrified sports sedan,” said Le Vot, during an NAIAS press conference. It flaunts new vertical proportions and a stretched interior space, including a 2 + 1 + 2 seating architecture, designed to create an entirely new vehicle segment. The pure electric all-wheel-drive concept is designed for full autonomous drive capability.
“Fully embracing the three pillars of Nissan Intelligent Mobility—Intelligent Driving, Intelligent Power, and Intelligent Integration, the IMs concept moves toward the creation of a sustainable mobile society in the form of EVs, autonomous drive, and connectivity technologies,” said Le Vot of the IMs.
Putting a priority on the vehicle’s interior space, all powertrain components are underneath the cabin floor. The concept’s high-performance AWD system is powered by a pair of electric motors, one on each axle, generating total output of 360 kW and 590 lb·ft (799 N·m) of torque. A 115-kW·h battery provides an estimated range of 380 mi (610 km) on a charge. An advanced air suspension adapts is paired with aggressive 22-inch wheels.
Despite its elevated height, Nissan says the concept has a sporty character and excellent aerodynamics, marrying futuristic high-tech qualities with timeless Japanese accents. Nissan’s signature V-motion design language is emphasized on the IMs concept’s grille-less front fascia through the shape and placement of the headlamps.
The exterior also features holographic taillamps and a B-pillar-less four-door body structure with reverse-opening rear doors for easy interior access. To emphasize its Japanese character, a traditional Asanoha geometric graphic pattern has been applied in gold over the IMs concept’s smoked glass roof surface—and it is used throughout the vehicle including on the wheels and inside the cabin. In Autonomous Drive mode, the IMs’ headlights and rear combination light turn blue, and lighting travels continuously from front-to-rear to notify pedestrians and other drivers of its autonomous status.
Nissan says that the concept’s interior represents an entirely new way of visualizing how future commuters will travel in an autonomously driven world. In manual driving mode, the interior is a driver-centric cockpit with advanced driver-assistance technology and multi-level information displays. In autonomous drive mode, the car transforms from a “driver’s car” to a fully autonomous vehicle, allowing the driver to engage in conversation with passengers, catch up on work, or enjoy the numerous entertainment options. In the rear is the “Premier Seat,” an oversized center seat that appears out of the three-across rear seat after slim outboard positions are folded. The interior uses darker materials, with gold details throughout, and elements of light similar to Japanese paper door screens in traditional tatami rooms.
Infiniti QX Inspiration SUV
The upscale Infiniti QX Inspiration is a midsize SUV design study previews the brand’s plan to launch a range of high-performance electrified vehicles that it promises will deliver an engaging drive and range confidence. Its design previews the company’s first fully electric production car, illustrating how new architectures and technologies will influence production designs and drawing on the Japanese spatial concept of Ma—how open spaces between lines create tension and build anticipation. And the development of new electrified vehicle platforms enables the creation of spacious, lounge-like interiors influenced by omotenashi, the Japanese approach to hospitality.
Future Infiniti models will offer a mix of fully electric, e-POWER, and performance hybrid vehicles. The powertrains will be matched with dedicated platforms and vehicle architectures.
“As the luxury brand within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, Infiniti can draw on a wide range of ultra-low emissions powertrain technologies to deliver driving pleasure and thrilling performance. We have previously explored this with the Prototype 9 and Prototype 10, and QX Inspiration shows how this philosophy will manifest itself in production: as a powerful electric SUV with a versatile character and luxurious interior,” said François Bancon, Vice President.
The concept signals the brand’s intention to produce a fully electric midsize SUV based on an all-new vehicle platform, which could accommodate a powerful electric all-wheel drive (e-AWD) system. The concept’s SUV packaging means the high-capacity battery pack can be located below the vehicle floor for a low center of gravity, feeding power to an electric motor on each axle.
A new design form language for electrification, based on the principles of modern Japanese design and architecture, is defined by straight lines, clean surfaces, and concise graphics, taking hints from Q Inspiration sedan concept and Prototypes 9 and 10.
“The Infiniti design aesthetic has always been linked to the powertrain,” said Alfonso Albaisa, Senior Vice President for Global Design, Nissan Motor Co. “Where a V8 engine might move the interior rearward, electrification has allowed us to the move the interior forward and provides for a balanced profile. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t express a new kind of performance. The power of the electric engine is expressed through the robustness and fullness of the body.”
Without the need for a large engine, designers adapted the proportions to accommodate a more balanced overall shape, a cab-forward design with short 855 mm (33.7 in) front and 945 mm (37.2 in) rear overhangs and a shorter hood. The concept’s overall length is 4650 mm (183.1 in) and the axles 2850 mm (112.2 in) apart, enabled designers to create expansive surfaces with new proportions. The long roofline peaks at 1630 mm (64.2 in) in height at a point directly above the front row of seats, then flows downwards into the car’s aerodynamically efficient Kammback rear. Without the need for a large front grille to cool an engine, the concept still retains shapes that define what would have been an air intake.
The new electric vehicle platform enables a lounge-like interior with an abundance of cabin space, a flat floor for greater flexibility, and greater room for four occupants and their luggage.
Dominating the dashboard is a pillar-to-pillar screen that displays information to driver and front passenger—a signature feature destined for future Infinitis. The rectangular steering wheel also features its own monitor. There are digital displays linked to the rear-facing door-mounted cameras. In place of a transmission tunnel is a Bianco Carrara marble center console which extends from the dash to rear seats. The headlining is replaced by a timber louver structure inspired by Japanese architecture, creating pleasant indirect lighting for occupants. The flat floor is upholstered in white suede panels. Lighting in the base of the coach doors cast a subtle glow over the ground for a “carpet” of light lines. The front seats rotate 30 degrees outwards, making for easier ingress and egress.
The steering wheel, pedals, and driver displays maintain the connection to driving, a feature that will remain common to all Infinitis for the foreseeable future. However, a full range of driver assist technologies that may one day be available is hinted at by the steering wheel that collapses into the dashboard and pedals that retract into the floor, releasing more space should the driver wish to hand control over to the vehicle. By contrast, the rear of the cabin is devoid of all technology, a deliberate move by designers to create a relaxing, screen-free space.