Nissan Nuvu

9 Oct, 2008 10:27am Craig McAlpine

Electric city car points to future green machine from firm


Wild looks, an electric motor and a recycled interior. There’s no doubt that when it comes to being unconventional, Nissan’s Nuvu leaves no stone unturned in its quest to be different. Yet despite this, the driving experience is impressive. With good performance, incredible refinement and a tight turning circle, we think this model really does represent a taste of the ultimate city car of the future.Rival: Mitsubishi i-MiEVAn electric version of the innovative i city car is set to be launched in Japan next year. It has an advantage over the Nuvu as it’s based on proven running gear, while the larger interior means there’s plenty of room for four. Its range and performance promise to be comparable to the Nissan’s.

There’s no doubt that Nissan has given us some strange looking concepts recently. And hot on the heels of the outlandish rotating cabin-equipped Pivo and Pivo 2 studies comes this – the Nuvu.

Auto Express had an exclusive preview of the three-seater city car ahead of its debut at the Paris Motor Show. And the thing that struck us immediately about the Nuvu is that it’s not white – unlike nearly every other concept revealed recently! In fact, the car is bright gold. Nissan calls the colour Soft Feel Sandy Gold – a name which celebrates its near-matt finish.

It’s certainly eyecatching, but undoubtedly the most striking feature of the Nuvu is the ‘energy-tree’, which rises from the luggage compartment floor to the roof behind the driver’s seat. Here it connects to solar ‘leaves’ that cover the glass roof. This is the first indication that the powertrain of this concept is fully electric.

The motor is mounted at the back of the vehicle and drives the rear wheels. Nissan wouldn’t confirm any power figures, but insiders claim that the Nuvu will have a driving range of around 80 miles and achieve a top speed of 75mph. That’s impressive for a vehicle that relies solely on electric power.

The lithium-ion batteries are manufactured as a joint venture between Nissan and the NEC electronics group, and they are mounted under the seats to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible. Charging from empty to 80 per cent capacity takes 10-20 minutes, while a full charge from flat from a standard domestic supply will be complete in three to four hours. But it’s not only the drivetrain that’s green in this concept. Many of the materials used in the Nuvu are designed to be environmentally friendly. As a result, the seats are made from recycled material and are mounted on a floor made from wood fibre and old car tyres!

Driver controls are simple, with all of the main functions – steering, accelerating, braking and gear selection – operated ‘by wire’. This gives the Nuvu a very light feel, with a wheel that requires only one turn from lock to lock – ideal for tight city streets. The gearchange and handbrake are concealed under a panel in the floor of the Nuvu, but while this keeps the cabin looking tidy, it’s not very practical!

The dashboard incorporates a large digital instrument panel which shows speed, distance covered and battery range. There are no wing mirrors on the Nuvu, though, as these have been removed to help reduce the car’s drag coefficient. Instead, it’s fitted with two small cameras which form part of the Nissan’s advanced parking system. This set-up gives a bird’s-eye view of the car when parking in tight spots and makes it remarkably easy to manoeuvre.

Nissan has already confirmed it plans to introduce an all-electric car to the US and Japan in 2010, which it will then sell across the globe in 2012. The Nuvu isn’t that model, but the technology it uses will certainly appear in the production vehicle.

Key specs

* Price: £17,000 (est)
* Engine: Rear-mounted electric motor, 55bhp (est)
* Range: 80 miles (est)
* Top speed: 75mph (est)
* 0-60mph: 9.0 seconds (est)
* Charging time: 20 minutes (80 per cent capacity)
* Standard equipment: Roof-mounted solar panels, satellite-navigation, electric windows, traction control, digital instrument and information display, bird’s-eye parking camera
*On sale: 2010