, TOKYO, Nov 8 – Nissan said Friday it would unveil a sporty concept electric vehicle at the Tokyo Motor Show as Japan’s number-two automaker 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 (3.3 feet) and 1.89 metres 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 fuel-cell 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 automakers have been working on various green vehicles — from electric cars to zero emission fuel-cell models — for a market that still remains tiny.
However demand for lower-emission vehicles is forecast to grow, with further technological advances in the field seen as crucial due to toughening emissions standards.
Range, performance, re-fuelling 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.
The Japanese firm has invested about 4.0 billion euros ($5.4 billion) 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.
Nissan said it has sold more than 80,000 Leaf electric vehicles globally since its rollout three years ago, a fraction of the 4.9 million cars it sold worldwide in its last fiscal year.
The Japanese automaker will also be showing off its second commercial electric vehicle, the e-NV200 minivan, which it unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.