With its little Leaf, Nissan was the first automaker to introduce a mass market all-electric vehicle. But nearly a decade after its introduction, and despite a recent bump in the EV’s range, Nissan has been at risk of falling behind in a market set to see a flood of new entries from competitors like Volkswagen, Ford, General Motors and others.
The Nissan Ariya crossover making its debut at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show suggests that Japan’s second-largest carmaker won’t cede its pioneering position in the battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, market without a fight, however.
For now, Nissan is calling Ariya a concept vehicle, but it also acknowledges a production version is on the way that would target vehicles like the upcoming VW ID crossover, as well as the Tesla Model Y set to debut next year.
Nissan isn’t offering up many details about the Ariya concept, though, at just over 180 inches, nose-to-tail, it is about the size of the automaker’s current Rogue model. But they won’t share platforms. Ariya will ride on a unique, battery-only platform, its pack mounted below the load floor, along with twin motors, one on each axle, that will give it all-wheel-drive capabilities.
We’ll have to wait to hear how big that pack is but considering current sales trends, it seems all but certain the production version of Ariya would get at least 60 kilowatt-hours worth of batteries, and perhaps something north of 80, enough to let it handily top 200 miles range. The Tesla Model Y, much like the current Model X sedan, is expected to feature several battery pack options that will allow a buyer to approach 300 miles per charge.
One thing that could create controversy is Nissan’s decision to stick with the CHAdeMO charging port found on the Leaf. That has largely been abandoned by most competitors and public charging companies like Electrify America and Chargepoint are offering a limited number of chargers equipped with that capability. They’re also reluctant to upgrade, so there are few places where a CHAdeMo-equipped vehicle can get Level 3 quick-charging above 50 kilowatts. By comparison, most of the new CCS chargers are going in at 150 and even 350 kilowatts, radically reducing charge times.
The Nissan Ariya doesn’t break much ground from a visual perspective, though the concept vehicle adopts a bit more radical approach to the automaker’s familiar V-Motion grille and the profile reveals a copper-colored accent line framing the roof from the air pillar to the rear hatch.
There’s a hint of Jaguar I-Pace in the Ariya – at least in the sense of its shortened hood and relatively large cabin. That suggests that Nissan, like the British brand, is taking advantage of a fundamental aspect of electric vehicle design. With no engine under the hood, it can introduce a “frunk,” or front trunk, and then recapture some of that space to share with passengers and cargo.
The show car’s cabin features a right-hand-drive layout – no surprise for a vehicle debuting in Tokyo – and is a surprisingly Spartan affair. The driver looks at an all-digital gauge cluster, wth a 12.3-inch touchscreen topping the center stack. Only a handful of additional climate controls are mounted directly below the touchscreen.
Nissan claims the five-seater has limited self-driving capabilities and, in production, would almost certainly feature the latest version of the ProPilot system, perhaps by then allowing some limited hands-free capabilities.
We know that Nissan is looking at still other all-electric options, including a version of the IMk micro-compact also being shown in Tokyo this week. It also has suggested a version of the bigger IMx show car is also in the works.
When might we see these on the road? That’s something Nissan has yet to reveal.