The Land Glider concept car Nissan is bringing to the Tokyo Auto Show could one day appear in showrooms wearing an Infiniti badge.
Company insiders say the electric two-seater, which leans into turns like a motorcycle, “is under serious study” and “is intended to look five to 10 years into the future at emerging market trends.” That’s a slightly longer timeline than Volkswagen is considering with the equally wild 1.3 L/100km L1 diesel-electric concept unveiled at last month’s Frankfurt Motor Show.
The Land Glider, like the L1, redefines “car” and embraces a less-is-more design ethos to maximize efficiency. It isn’t so much a car as an enclosed motorcycle with four wheels. Perhaps that makes it an enclosed all-terrain vehicle that leans. In any event, Nissan says the Land Glider could be marketed to city dwellers as an urban runabout that provides the mobility of a two-wheeler but with greater safety and comfort.
“We want to position this car to be competitive against these alternatives,” says designer Ryusuke Hayashi.
Should the Land Glider see production, expect at least one change to the design.
Nissan’s goal was an efficient car that meets the needs of urban commuters. Company CEO, Carlos Ghosn, has made it clear he believes cars with cords are the future, so an electric drivetrain was almost certainly a foregone conclusion. The company says 50 percent of the world’s population will live in cities “in the near future,” so the designers “latched onto motorcycles as a credible base to begin the design process.”
Hayashi apparently wasn’t so concerned with such grandiose thinking when he pitched the idea in 2007, and originally wanted a car that would be easy to park.
The Land Glider should be able to squeeze into the tiniest of spots — it is just 1092 mm wide and 3098 mm long. Like the Volkswagen L1, the passenger sits behind the driver. But rear-impact safety concerns may mean a production model that’s a single-seater.
Aside from its tiny dimensions, the most striking thing about the concept is, it leans up to 17 percent in turns. Nissan says that gives the super-narrow car added stability at speed. Nissan hasn’t offered many details about the drivetrain beyond saying it features a pair of electric motors driving the rear wheels and a lithium-ion battery under the floor. The concept also uses fly-by-wire steering.
Safety will be a big concern with such a small car, which is one reason Volkswagen gave the L1 a carbon-fibre safety cell similar to those used in race cars. Nissan says the Land Glider uses “a car-robotics–style crash-avoidance system” that detects and avoids cars much like schooling fish avoid hitting each other and other objects.
The Japanese automaker has hinted the Land Glider, or a car based on it, could see production.
“This leaning machine gives a clear direction to how a future small car from Nissan could look in congested cities, a clue of what Nissan means by new era of mobility,” the company said.