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Monday 21st February 2011

Nissan Undecided On Esflow EV

Would a halo sports model help shift EV perceptions?



The electric Nissan Esflow entered public consciousness last week as a computer generated graphic in a YouTube video announced via Twitter. If that leaves you feeling just a little bit cynical we don't blame you, but then you probably haven't met Francois Bancon. (Writes CJ Hubbard.)


Francois is (deep breath....) 'Division General Manager, Product Strategy & Advanced Product-Planning Director' for Nissan's Zero Emissions line-up, which makes the Esflow his baby. PH met him last week to chat about the concept (due to be unveiled in Geneva next week), and to attempt to separate reality from the hype.

That all-electric aspect is a bit of a red flag for PHers, perhaps, so let's start by imagining this compact rear-wheel drive coupe powered by a proper combustion engine instead. (We'll puncture that balloon for you shortly.) The Esflow is smaller than the 370Z so, while a V6 seems unlikely, a fizzing turbo four might fit.

Would you want one now? Because in the metal and carbon fibre - the concept is an aluminium frame with composite panels - the Esflow is certainly attention grabbing. We're not sure it's quite 'stunning', but what's most interesting is just how outlandish it's not.


Much of the design reflects the current Nissan performance portfolio; the aforementioned Z, obviously, but also the GT-R (check the front wings and visor-like windscreen). The difference, the futurism, comes in the form of sharper creases and slender lighting graphics - both elements that are increasingly a production possibility thanks to modern materials techniques and the ever onwards march of LED headlamps.

According to Monsieur Bancon, we will see similar details on sporting Nissans soon. But the Esflow looks almost ready to roll straight off the factory line. The interior, though outfitted with metal fixtures and carbon fibre mouldings, isn't by any means wacky, while the exterior has proper bumper joins and door shuts.


But Francois is adamant there are no plans for a sub-370Z Nissan sports car with an internal combustion engine. Rear-wheel drive four-pots are difficult to engineer for NVH he says, and Nissan feels it can't deliver a quality product at a competitive price. The idea has been 'studied and studied' in the envious light of Mazda's success with the MX-5, and Francois jokes he has 'no idea how Mazda makes money' on that car.

So why, then, does the Esflow look so... real?

Because Nissan wanted 'absolute credibility on the execution'. The idea for an all-electric sports car has been around since 2005 when CEO Carlos Ghosn gave Nissan's EV strategy the green light. 'Innovation for excitement' is (genuinely) the company motto, and while this can't possibly justify the Micra, Francois says Nissan could build the Esflow 'tomorrow'.


The tricky part is the business case. The underlying electric vehicle technology not only exists, it's in production already as the Esflow uses the same laminated lithium ion battery pack as the Nissan Leaf. That's a T-shaped unit fitted behind the seats and beneath what was formerly the transmission tunnel, and it would be powered by two 80kW (108bhp, 206lb ft) Nissan Leaf motors, mounted in line with the rear axles, each driving one of the rear wheels.

The concept itself - which can apparently move under its own voltage - is powered by a single motor but the twin set up is not only technically feasible, with the right control systems it might even provide profound agility without necessarily doubling the energy consumption. The theoretical 150-mile range is further than the single motor Leaf's official 110-mile capability, yet with a potential 216bhp and 406lb ft the Esflow's ambition is 62mph from standstill in less than 5.0 seconds.


Weight is the key - where the Leaf approaches 1,600kg, the Esflow has a 900kg goal. The concept stretches this slightly to around 1,000kg, but still has a very low centre of gravity thanks to the battery position, while the 47-53 front-rear weight bias approaches Nissan's 45-55 ideal (as per the GT-R).

It could also be affordable. Nissan's target price is 25-30,000 Euros (£25k max) because such a car would have to be accessible. Here, the exotic materials low weight demands aren't so much an issue (this innovation is coming across the car industry within years anyway) as the potential sales volumes. How many 'Daniels' are there in the world? (The cheesy chappie from the original press release dreamed up by Nissan's customer profiling programme.)


The problem is that Nissan wants to achieve a 25 percent share of the total EV market by 2018, and a niche sports car isn't necessarily going to help much with the numbers. The three models already signed off include a commercial vehicle, so EV thrills don't seem very high up the corporate wish list.

But while a small urban EV makes more financial sense than a sports car, a production Esflow could be rationalised as a sexy 'halo' model for electric tech.

The impression we get from Francois is that Nissan is undecided. The Esflow is officially just a concept, but it is going to Geneva with solemn intent - if enough people make enough fuss it might influence the company's priorities.

If nothing else, Nissan's concept implies that you won't need a Tesla-sized budget to have fun in an electric car in future. Sadly though, in spite of its finished appearance, it takes us no closer to understanding what that form of 'fun' may actually feel like.

Words and pics by CJ Hubbard





Chris-R
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PSBuckshot

Original Poster:

4,891 posts

45 months

[news] 
Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
Top picture, bang on side view. Car looks great, but with the rest of it just feel they're trying a bit too hard with the styling.

A Scotsman

967 posts

85 months

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Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
Nissan says it wants to achieve a 25 percent share of the total EV market by 2018. Surely they want to sell more than a couple of hundred cars a year.

TheRoadWarrior

1,220 posts

64 months

[news] 
Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
Interestingly from some angles it looks like an out-and-out concept car; crazy swoopy lines, massive wheels, nowhere for the suspension to fit etc etc and then others- i.e. 3/4 front view it looks almost production should nissan choose to swap out the LED lights for something more conventional.

Interior is nice as well.

As for NVH of RWD 4-pots; NISSAN.. WE DONT CARE! Put a 250bhp turbo 4-banger in a SMALL RWD car that handles properly and we'll all buy it.

MSportUK

133 posts

127 months

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Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
So, not a potential FT-86 rival under all the EV concept gubbins, then?

Disappointing.

jake15919

738 posts

51 months

[news] 
Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
I think it looks great and the dynamics are good (apart from the range). My problem though is that until we bite the bullet and go nuclear EVs are just another dead end environmentally.
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Pixel Pusher

8,703 posts

45 months

[news] 
Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
I'm not sure why manufacturers do this. Create a vehicle that looks the part, has a very attractive interior, dress that all up further with evocative lifestyle stories about some stud called Daniel from Barcelona and then tell us you can only go 150 miles before you have to plug it in. The article mentions that there is a probable test bed in a commercial vehicle. Surely testing that to destrcution and coming up with an "EV" power plant with a 400 mile range first would be more of a revelation?

The Esflow looks great, the interior would not look out of place in many a supercar, but could you see "Daniel" walking out of a club after his stint at the decks with a babe on his arm and then blowing a night of passion because his Duracells are flat?


Edited by Pixel Pusher on Monday 21st February 10:47

Beefmeister

11,976 posts

116 months

[news] 
Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
Great concept. Within 5 years battery technology will allow these EVs to go 300 miles+ on a charge, which makes them much more viable.

But as with the first car drivers, it needs early adopters to get the tech driving forward. Now EVs are good for town driving and shorter journeys only, within 5 years they'll be able to replace everything bar really long joruneys. If you add in range-extenders such as the Vauxhall Ampera the tech works right now. 300 miles, equivalent of 150mpg, great stuff.

kambites

41,078 posts

107 months

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Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
TheRoadWarrior said:
As for NVH of RWD 4-pots; NISSAN.. WE DONT CARE! Put a 250bhp turbo 4-banger in a SMALL RWD car that handles properly and we'll all buy it.
Elise sales would probably imply the opposite. Everyone wants to want a noisy lightweight RWD car, but I think very few people actually want one.

ploz

86 posts

115 months

[news] 
Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
Having done a lot of work on EV policy, I have to welcome this car with open arms. Traditionally, we have always relied on innovation trickling down from the top end of the performance market and getting into shopping trollies sooner or later. Because the potential market for EVs is soo large, all the manufacturers have been trying to get mass-market offerings ready before the technology has been developed in the top-end of the market. Although, I think, the mass-market push will continue, these sports cars (and I hope more electric sports cars will be offered) will help speed up development considerably.

Now - how about sorting out some charging points!

Beefmeister

11,976 posts

116 months

[news] 
Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
ploz said:
Having done a lot of work on EV policy, I have to welcome this car with open arms. Traditionally, we have always relied on innovation trickling down from the top end of the performance market and getting into shopping trollies sooner or later. Because the potential market for EVs is soo large, all the manufacturers have been trying to get mass-market offerings ready before the technology has been developed in the top-end of the market. Although, I think, the mass-market push will continue, these sports cars (and I hope more electric sports cars will be offered) will help speed up development considerably.

Now - how about sorting out some charging points!
We're working on it! wink

GTRene

8,932 posts

110 months

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Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
PSBuckshot said:
Top picture, bang on side view. Car looks great, but with the rest of it just feel they're trying a bit too hard with the styling.
indeed, the side view is spot on, love that.

ktm301p

716 posts

75 months

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Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
PSBuckshot said:
Top picture, bang on side view. Car looks great, but with the rest of it just feel they're trying a bit too hard with the styling.
I agree, I like the side and rear - But IMO, I really dont like the front of the car, just doesn't fit . . .
On the whole though, I think this sounds like an awesome car!


timewatch

881 posts

80 months

[news] 
Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
Gees, what a stupid place to put an electrial plug, facing up too!

I can see that flooding up in no time here, nice designed car apart from that.

TW>>>

renrut

1,341 posts

91 months

[news] 
Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
It worries me that they genuinely can't see how Mazda make the MX-5 for profit. But then when you price a 2 seat economical coupe at £10K more the competition you probably won't be predicting very many sales...

geoffracing

617 posts

61 months

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Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all

Proportions are nice (a bit reminding us of the Cheetah !) but the shape of the windows is ghastly and spoils it all. No it is not a beautiful car.

Problem with Oriental cars is their image: they have none, except for Honda, so they can only count on proposing exciting shapes...

AlpinaB5s

138 posts

45 months

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Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
Nice styling, its like the 2012 bd lovechild of the E-Type (rear) and the 'vette stingray (front)

wab172uk

904 posts

113 months

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Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
Quite like the look of that.

MSportUK

133 posts

127 months

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Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
kambites said:
Elise sales would probably imply the opposite. Everyone wants to want a noisy lightweight RWD car, but I think very few people actually want one.
The Elise is a bit of an extreme example. If I could swap my 350Z for something with 50bhp and 300kg less (similar fun with better economy and tax band) without it being a crazy, stripped out, bootless wonder, I'd go for it.

Supervet

143 posts

93 months

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Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
Now I like that, just give me at least 250 miles range when driving hard.

Ed.

1,196 posts

124 months

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Monday 21st February 2011 quote quote all
jake15919 said:
My problem though is that until we bite the bullet and go nuclear EVs are just another dead end environmentally.
Go ahead for new plants was given in 2008?
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