With Batmobile-like styling and a revolutionary approach to electric battery technology, Nissan’s BladeGlider concept vehicle will be unveiled later this month at the Tokyo Motor Show.
From a design perspective, the BladeGlider is based on Nissan’s DeltaWing race model which debuted last year at the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans. In place of the former’s small, turbocharged direct injection engine, the BladeGlider is all-electric and derives its power from a pair of motors mounted inside the rear wheels.
The twin motors eliminate the need for a dedicated engine compartment and deliver power directly to the wheels. They also allow for “torque vectoring” which improves the vehicle’s cornering ability.
Although in-wheel motors may sound like a futuristic technique, legendary auto designer Ferdinand Porsche and his partner Jakob Lohner used them to power their first design, the System Lohner-Porsche, which was unveiled in 1898.
Nissan’s head of product strategy Francois Bancon says, “The goal was to revolutionize 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.”
The BladeGlider’s aerodynamic signature is far closer to that of a jet fighter than a traditional automobile. In fact, chief designer Ben Bowlby, who also designed the DeltaWing, says his inspiration for the BladeGlider came from the F-14 military jet and high-performance glider planes.
The vehicle’s front end measures a mere 3.3 feet in width, while the rear end has a breadth of 5.9 feet. In addition to improved aerodynamics, the design makes the BladeGlider extremely stable, especially at higher speeds.
The BladeGlider’s 30/70 front-to-rear weight distribution is in stark contrast to the 50/50 model conventional auto designers strive to achieve.
The cockpit is designed in a 1+2 layout, with the driver’s seat positioned ahead of the two passenger seats. The driver’s seat swings up and away when the vehicle’s doors are opened.
The BladeGlider borrows a number of components and concepts from Nissan’s all-electric Leaf, including its Lithium-ion battery technology. This will make the transition from concept vehicle to full production model easier and less costly, and it does appear that Nissan is considering a production model in the not too distant future. In a recent press release Nissan said, “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.”