2008 Paris Auto Show: Nissan Nuvu Concept
Cameras flashed wildly as Nissan's cute little three-passenger micro-car "New View" concept was driven onto Nissan's stand. An all-electric cutie, the Nissan Nuvu Concept shows Nissan's desire to be a leader in EV technology. Contributing to the car's green technology are solar panels in the all-glass roof and the use of natural, organic and recycled materials throughout. Nissan has plans to release an all-electric car in Japan and the U.S. in 2010, and though it won't be a production version of the Nuvu concept, much of the concept's technology will make it into the production EV.
Why it Matters
Despite its sunny disposition, the Nissan Nuvu Concept is designed with a somewhat dark future in mind, one where natural resources are running low and the world has turned against a solo person in a car built for four or more. The Nissan Nuvu Concept's mission is strictly urban, since it's electric, and the idea is that you don't need a multi-passenger car just to get around town. The Nuvu also previews the next-generation Nissan Micra, a non-U.S. car that is the company's smallest offering.
What it Looks Like
The Nissan Nuvu Concept looks...weird. Considering that it shares the show floor with plenty of other weird-looking cars (most of them French), that's saying something. The proportions are jarring, the interior so bright white that it will likely blind you, and there are enough peculiarities on every surface that you'll simply shake your head in a fit of "what were they thinking?"
The exterior is about the size of a Smart fortwo, so it's tiny. However, Nissan has managed to cram three seats inside, although only one is for full-time use. There's an "energy tree" inside, which is basically an organically-shaped post that extends from the floor to the ceiling, then branches out across the roof with solar cell "leaves." Yes, it is goofy, but then again, so is the whole car. We do have to admit that there are some cool elements here, like the floating taillights, the ringed headlights, and the wheels that look like they're moving when the car is sitting still. Overall, however, there's more here to make us cringe than want to cuddle the Nuvu.
What's Under the Skin
The Nuvu's mechanicals preview an actual production car, so Nissan is tight-lipped about what's under the hood. The company goes so far as to say that the Nissan Nuvu Concept will boast an electric motor driving the rear wheels, but doesn't give any power or torque figures. Range will be around 75 miles on a charge of the lithium ion battery pack, and the top speed will be about 75 mph.
The battery pack itself is a new design, using thin flat lithium ion cells that Nissan claims gives the Nuvu a distinct advantage in energy density and overall packaging of the batteries. A "quick charge" from empty to full would take between 10 and 20 minutes, while a "full charge" would take about four hours on a 220 volt outlet.
What We Think
We love the technology in the Nuvu, and think that Nissan has nailed the actual use of electric vehicles as city cars right on the head. However, the style leaves us cold. It's a positively dorky looking little car, with weird curves, strange windows and ultimately useless features. Keep the recycled and recyclable materials, but leave the goofy styling on the drawing table when you put this one into production, guys.
By Keith Buglewicz and Greg Brown
Photo credit: Greg Brown