Nissan’s newly revealed BladeGlider is both a proposal for the future direction of Nissan electric vehicle (EV) development and an exploratory prototype of an upcoming production vehicle.
Developed with a ‘form follows function’ design philosophy, the vehicle’s architecture has been crafted to give the driver and passengers “sustainable exhilaration”.
Francois Bancon, division general manager of Product Strategy and Product Planning at Nissan, says “The goal was to revolutionise the architecture of the vehicle to provoke new emotions, provide new value and make visible for consumers how Zero Emissions can help redefine our conception of vehicle basics.”
BladeGlider’s shape features a narrow front track, which has its conceptual roots in two aerial images: the form of a glider and the triangular shape of a “swept wing” aircraft.
The vehicle’s developmental focus was on aerodynamics: achieving low drag (cdA) while generating increased downforce.
Nissan says the BladeGlider shares engineering technologies with both the Nissan LEAF and the Nissan ZEOD RC (Zero Emission On Demand Racing Car), which will make its debut at next year’s Le Mans 24 Hour race.
With its narrow, 1.0 metre lightweight front track and widened rear track, BladeGlider looks as if it could have sprung from a “skunk works” project. But the architecture all boils down to aerodynamics and balance. Having the front wheels close together reduces drag and enhances manoeuvrability for high-G cornering power, assisted by its 30/70 front/rear weight distribution ratio. Aerodynamic downforce is created by the rigid yet lightweight carbon-fibre underbody, hence the lack of drag-inducing wings.
When BladeGlider matures into a production car, it could be Nissan’s first use of in-wheel motors. The in-wheel motors provide rear-wheel propulsion with independent motor management, while also contributing to freedom of upper body design and space-efficient packaging.
To power the electric motors, BladeGlider employs Nissan’s lithium-ion battery technology borrowed from the Nissan LEAF. Battery modules are mounted low and towards the rear to enhance stability and handling.
“BladeGlider was conceived around delivering a glider-like exhilaration that echoes its lightweight, downsized hyper-efficient aerodynamic form,” said Shiro Nakamura, Nissan’s senior vice president and chief creative officer. “This design is more than revolutionary; it’s transformational, applying our most advanced electric drive-train technology and racetrack-inspired styling in the service of a new dimension of shared driving pleasure.”
Inside the canopy, the cockpit seats three in a triangular configuration with the driver centre-forward. Seating appointments feature special coverings with yellow fluorescent lines. An aircraft-type steering wheel and digital instrumentation technology complete the glider-like image. To support maximum EV cruising efficiency, the IT system can display relief maps and atmospheric conditions.
Passengers sit at the longitudinal centre of gravity to maintain the car’s balance at all times. The centre-driving setting of the cabin space is also designed to enhance the driver’s sensory experience.
As a final touch, the driver’s seat automatically slides laterally when you open the door, enabling easy access to passenger seats.
“I think that the excitement of the racing car should be mirrored in the excitement of driving the road car,” said Ben Bowlby, director of Nissan Motorsport Innovation, who has supported the BladeGlider’s development. “I think there are elements we can bring from the race track to make these future road cars more exciting, more fulfilling and give greater driving pleasure.”