Nissan BladeGlider ignites your desire for more. The sharp-lined electric three-seater will convince you with its performance and comfort. It's a shame they only made two prototypes.
When Nissan made the legendary Garage 56 entry at the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans race, the surprise was big. For a while, the garage reserved exclusively for technical innovations belonged to the Delta Wing racing car, measuring in at no more than 60 cm up front and 1.7 m at the back, with a four-cylinder 1.6 liter 300 hp engine, two narrow front tires and two classically wide rear tires. Even though Delta Wing, which featured no wings, didn't finish the race because it crashed into the Toyota Hybrid-TS030, the Nissan engineers never gave up on their idea of a race car with optimized aerodynamics. Four years on, a road rendition with fully-electric propulsion and modified Delta Wing bodywork owned the first few laps in faraway Brazil. Driving an eccentric three-seater has proven that sports mishaps can bear fruitful results.
Entering the 4.3 m long prototype called BladeGlider is nothing but a pleasure. Like in a Lamborghini, the rear-hinged doors open upwards. Not up and forward, but up and back. While we doubt that they were inspired by the winning attitude of a potential Japanese Olympic champion, such a magnificent door positioning certainly comes with a charm that might instantly steal the show from every Lamborghini. Central to the tightly-measured cockpit is the driver's seat, which has truly comfortable passenger seats to the right and left behind it. The advantage to such a seating arrangement is not only in the unobstructed view ahead, but also in more generously-allocated leg space for passengers with long limbs. The space availability is wonderfully rounded off by the lack of a roof over the heads of the passengers.
BladeGlider may lack things we're used seeing in classic vehicles, but room is definitely not one of them. It is, however, deprived of sideview mirrors, which give way to two small cameras, which project their images onto two small screens found inside of the car. The steering wheel and dashboard displays provide full access to data on torque, velocity, battery capacity, etc. Like in F1 racing cars, driving settings, such as control over traction and driving mode, can be exerted via the steering wheel.
We fasten the four-point harness, start the motor, set energy recuperation using the steering wheel paddles, and off we go. If a sudden rush of adrenaline overpowers the silence at startup, you may think you've gone deaf, while the car accelerates to 100 km/h in less than 6 seconds. You'll find the answer to this conundrum in the car's drivetrain, which is nothing like the one found in Delta Wing. BladeGlider uses no fossil fuels, but only electricity. "Nissan believes that enthusiasts should look forward to a zero emission future, and Nissan BladeGlider is a perfect demonstration of that. It's the electric vehicle for car lovers," said Carlos Ghosn enthusiastically, the president and CEO of Nissan Motor Corporation. With 268 hp and 707 Nm right at the start, the sports car delivers on its promises. The rear-wheel drive is possible thanks to two nearly-inaudible 130 kW electric motors, mounted each on their own wheel. Once on the road, however, the silence gives ground to the sound of the cooling system that's hard at work to maintain the working temperature of the 220 kW Li-ion fine-module battery.
A good 500,000 Euro battery needs much cooling, not least because the prototype weighs in at 1300 kg. Though once in motion, the sky is pretty much the limit. Borrowed from Delta Wing, a narrow front axle and traction control settings, with drifting as one of the options, pulls Nissan BladeGlider over the 17-inch wheels with 175 mm tires up front, and pushes its rear over the 19-inch, 265 mm wide tires at the back. Without losing grip of the road, the futuristic BladeGlider also prides itself on high performance. It very quickly exceeds 190 km/h, which doesn't always make sense in electric vehicles, as is evident in its production brothers, Leaf and e-NV200.
Nissan BladeGlider may strive towards developing a sports series akin to Formula E, which will further encourage us to focus on high velocities. With the help of a 40 kW rapid charging station, the battery, the capacity of which is still kept secret by the Nissan empire, will charge from 20% to 90% of its capacity within 40 minutes.
You don't have to be a math whizz to calculate the battery's capacity based on this information, as Gareth Dunsmore, the European director of Nissan electric cars says: "Charging station and BladeGlider communicate with one another during the charging period. The battery is not always filled at the same capacity." Because the next generation Nissan Leaf will come to the market with a 60 kW battery, the BladeGlider should feature something similar. But we should not be overly-preoccupied with capacity, because the possibility that Nissan will ever actually bring BladeGlider to the market is roughly zero percent. Too bad. But, as we have seen, a zero percent chance in the automotive industry can only rise.