Elec­tric cars get sporty…

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - BUSINESS -

TOKYO: Nis­san said yes­ter­day it would un­veil a sporty con­cept elec­tric ve­hi­cle at the Tokyo Mo­tor Show as Ja­pan’s num­ber-two car­maker presses on with its bid to tap the bur­geon­ing green-car mar­ket.

The com­pany, which has been sell­ing its Leaf elec­tric ve­hi­cle since late 2010, said it hoped its Nis­san BladeGlider would help it reach a mar­ket of male driv­ers who still want per­for­mance and styling in an en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly car – a ma­jor hur­dle to wide­spread com­mer­cial sales.

The car, to be un­veiled at the bi­en­nial Tokyo ex­hi­bi­tion later this month, fea­tures an aero­dy­namic de­sign that widens from the front to back with space for a driver in the mid­dle and two pas­sen­gers in the rear.

The de­sign – one me­tre in the front and 1.89m at the back and made with light­weight car­bon fi­bres – puts the ve­hi­cle’s cen­tre of mass on the rear tires to al­low for tighter turns, Nis­san said.

“The driver’s seat has been po­si­tioned in the mid­dle of the ve­hi­cle to give a sense of a pilot in an air­borne glider,” Nis­san said.

The con­cept ve­hi­cle is squarely aimed at mov­ing into a higher-end elec­tric ve­hi­cle mar­ket al­ready tapped with some suc­cess by US- based Tesla.

This week, Toy­ota said it planned to un­veil its lat­est fu­el­cell con­cept car at the Ja­panese show, which runs from November 20 to De­cem­ber 1, with an ex­pected com­mer­cial roll­out two years away.

A to­tal of 177 ex­hibitors will be at the show, in­clud­ing Toy­ota, Nis­san, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Peu­geot.

The world’s ma­jor car­mak­ers have been work­ing on var­i­ous green ve­hi­cles – from elec- tric cars to zero emis­sion fu­el­cell mod­els – for a mar­ket that still re­mains tiny.

How­ever de­mand for low­ere­mis­sion ve­hi­cles is fore­cast to grow, with fur­ther tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances in the field seen as cru­cial due to tough­en­ing emis­sions stan­dards.

Range, per­for­mance, re­fu­elling in­fra­struc­ture and rel­a­tively high prices have proved ma­jor hur­dles to wide­spread sales of green ve­hi­cles.

Nis­san chief Car­los Ghosn has been a ma­jor pro­moter of elec­tric cars and vowed to press on de­spite lack­lus­tre de­mand so far.

Nis­san has in­vested about $5.4 bil­lion (R54bn) in elec­tric car devel­op­ment in a part­ner­ship with French car­maker Re­nault, which owns more than 40 per­cent of Nis­san. This week, Re­nault- Nis­san an­nounced an elec­tric car tie-up with Mit­subishi. – Sapa-AFP

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