Future of Nissan EVs
As one of the pioneering manufacturers to market a fully electric vehicle in the modern era, Nissan and the LEAF have made significant strides in the electric car market, and at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show the Japanese car company provided a solid look at its EV future. Making its world debut, the Ariya Concept is a small all-electric crossover that introduces an all-new look for Nissan, and while earlier concepts have provided hints of future design, the Ariya Concept is the closest to a production model thus far.
Evolution of Engineering and Design
“The Ariya Concept represents a strong collaboration between design and engineering,” said Yasuhiro Yamauchi, representative executive officer of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. “It is the next stage of Nissan’s future design language as we embark on a new era for the company — the next stage in our evolution,” Yamauchi noted.
Familiar Yet New
Even though elements of current Nissan designs can be recognized in the Ariya Concept, the new vehicle design takes things a giant step further, both for the brand and for what is likely a unique look for the brand’s electric vehicles. The signature V-Motion grille is still at the front; however, with the Ariya the overall size is broader, incorporating thin LED headlights and what Nissan calls the “shield,” emblazoned with an illuminated Nissan logo. The V is much more subtle; however, it also gets illuminated.
“We replaced the conventional grille with what we call a ‘shield’ — an expressive piece with innovative 3-D texture within that goes beyond cosmetics, but also as a way to highlight the technology lurking within the vehicle,” said Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s senior vice president of global design. “In this case, it’s a radar sensor and other technologies that help the Ariya Concept read the road and visualize things the driver can’t see,” Albaisa exclaimed.
The Ariya’s silhouette gives the impression of sportiness thanks to large 21-inch wheels, larger fender flares and smooth lines from the base of the windshield to a high-mounted rear wing. “The exterior strikes a balance between dynamic beauty and ‘tech sharpness,’ with proportions that show what’s possible with Nissan’s 100% electric vehicle platform,” Albaisa also noted. “The surprisingly short overhangs, large cabin, large wheels and tailored two-tone paint scheme provide an elegant appearance that balances sport and luxury,” Albaisa said.
Closer to Production
Elements of previous concept vehicles — such as the Nissan IMX concept shown here in Tokyo two years ago — can be detected in the Ariya, but — unlike the IMX — this new concept looks believable as a production vehicle. This is especially evident within the interior. Thanks to the EV’s lack of an internal-combustion engine or accompanying bulky driveline, designers were able to give the Ariya a roomy interior that seems incongruous to its small footprint.
Simple Interior Design
Inside, the Ariya Concept has a simple, clean design with minimal controls. The only physical button is the start button; a knob controls the 12.3-inch display and climate controls, which are fully integrated into the wood instrument panel. All other functions are intriguingly integrated haptic touch controls along the instrument panel that disappear when the vehicle is off.
New EV Architecture
The Ariya is built with an all-new vehicle architecture likely to be the basis for all Nissan EV models going forward. “A new vehicle architecture means fresh opportunities to redefine how vehicles interact with society, how an EV paired with advanced driving capabilities can offer a new perspective,” said Albaisa. “With this vehicle and the IMk concept, we wanted to ensure that the soul of every Nissan car possess a distinctive Japanese DNA conveyed in a simple-yet-powerfully modern way, something we call ‘Timeless Japanese Futurism,’” Albaisa effused.
Twin Electric Motors
The Ariya Concept is powered by two electric motors — one in front, one at the rear — which should not only provide instant acceleration, it adds the grip and improved handling of all-wheel drive. This electric all-wheel-drive system is designed to manage power delivery to the road for better cornering and handling on dry pavement, or when the surfaces offer less grip.
With the unveiling of the Ariya Concept, Nissan is also showcasing the latest version of its autonomous driving technology. ProPILOT 2.0 provides more opportunities for hands-off driving, utilizing the navigation system to help maneuver the car on predefined routes. The system can also assist with passing and exiting the freeway.
Engineers configured the ProPILOT system to watch for road diversions or instances when passing another vehicle is necessary; it takes information from the navigation and the 360-degree sensing to determine the best course of action. The driver is then prompted to put hands back on the wheel and confirm this new direction via a switch. When ProPILOT 2.0 is engaged, the interior lighting changes to let the driver know that hands-free driving is enabled.
Nissan IMk Concept
While the Ariya Concept is closer to a vehicle we’re likely to see in America, Nissan also introduced the IMk concept here in Tokyo. The IMk is more reflective of the small, urban commuter cars seen all over Tokyo. Many of Nissan’s new design elements are also incorporated in the IMk which provides another glimpse regarding how these new designs will find their way throughout the Nissan EV range.
EV City Car
“As a small EV for a new era, the Nissan IMk is designed to be at home in sophisticated cityscapes as much as in traditional Japanese towns,” said Satoru Tai, executive design director at Nissan. “The IMk fuses a modern, clean look, driven by its Japanese heritage, with innovative EV technology. Unconstrained by conventional concepts of the kei car segment, its design is interwoven with Japanese culture. It’s a luxury small EV that I hope a lot of customers are going to drive,” Tai proclaimed.
Clear Vision of the Future
“Nissan has a clear vision of global mobility. The Ariya Concept is just the beginning, as Nissan considers how design, packaging and driver enjoyment can be transformed through the architecture of new EV platforms,” said Yamauchi. “The Ariya Concept is not a concept car designed from far off ideas, but rather a car that embodies Nissan Intelligent Mobility at its core and highlights a promise of an entirely new driving experience on the horizon,” Yamauchi enthused.
Of all concept vehicles Nissan has shown over the last several years — all providing a look at a possible future for the brand — the new Ariya Concept seems to be the closest to reaching production. Although there has been no official word on plans for this new EV, it could certainly be the basis of a new vehicle in Nissan’s the near future.