Eco-Friendly Smart Cars Take Spotlight At Major Auto Show — And They Look Awesome

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Nissan hints at next Leaf with IDS Concept.

Tokyo Motor Show – Nissan may be on the front row of the alternative-fuels grid, but until now has made scarcely a ripple in the autonomous driving or connected-car space.His company’s electric vehicle sales have been a pale shadow of what the company bullishly predicted, but Ghosn was upbeat, boasting about Nissan’s leadership in the EV market with 20,000 sales of the battery electric Leaf.

Why else would none other than Carlos Ghosn, CEO of the Renault-Nissan alliance, take to the stage here in Tokyo, to sing the praises of this self-driving concept car. The motor show’s 44th edition, which runs until November 8, features 160 exhibitors including global auto giants and parts suppliers from a dozen countries. The stars of the Nissan display at Japan’s premier auto expo are the IDS self-driving concept and the Teatro for Dayz – which is not so much as car as a mobile device on wheels. The Gripz concept is a precursor to the next Nissan Juke, and looks like a Fifties Ferrari on stilts, while the IDS Concept isn’t yet another attempt to unify UK benefits from Iain Duncan Smith, but a 60kWh battery electric-powered study into autonomous driving, which hints at the styling of a future Leaf. It starts a week after Honda said it would put a commercialised self-driving car on the road by 2020, as automakers bet on vehicles that can drive and, in some case, park themselves.

The IDS, in particular, represents what Nissan believes next-generation vehicles should be. “Nissan Intelligent Driving improves a driver’s ability to see, think and react,” said Renault Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn in his presentation. “It compensates for human error, which causes more than 90 percent of all car accidents. During his speech, Ghosn repeatedly reminded the gathered journalists that the Leaf EV is the world’s best-selling electric, with more than 200,000 sold worldwide.

When the driver selects Piloted Drive and turns over control to the car, its performance – from accelerating to braking to cornering – imitates the driver’s own style. The company plans to introduce a degree of autonomous driving it calls Piloted Drive by 2016; technology that can maintain station in a single lane by itself.

Ghosn reckons Nissan will be able to offer full city and highway Piloted Driving by 2020, with Japan getting the first examples, followed by China, Europe and America. The eye-popping vehicle conjures images of the Terminator films with some of a usually hidden underbelly — including fuel tank and hoses — exposed, giving an inside look at the car’s machinery. The self-driving system – Ghosn went so far as to call it artificial intelligence – not only learns from where you go, what you do and how you do it, it also communicates with you like a personal assistant, with information about traffic conditions, reminders about your schedule and even your personal interests.

Nissan, a leader in electric vehicles, is showing a concept car with knobs and buttons replaced by tablet-style touch screens featuring controls and maps on a white instrument panel. Design director Mitsunori Morita explained: “The Nissan IDS Concept has different interiors depending on whether the driver opts for Piloted Drive or Manual Drive. Toyota and Honda are also exhibiting their latest fuel-cell offerings, seen as the holy grail of green cars because they emit nothing but water vapour from the tailpipe and can operate on renewable hydrogen gas.

The auto giant is hoping to sell tens of thousands of the eco-friendly vehicle over the next decade, as it looks to stop producing fossil-fuel based cars altogether by 2050. Honda’s rival fuel-cell features a cruising range of more than 700km (430 miles), and generates electricity that could help supply power to a local community in an emergency situation, it said. What the IDS shows is Nissan’s determination to blend electric car know-how with a slow and steady approach to self-drive cars that are actually production-ready. But a limited driving range and lack of refuelling stations have hampered development of fuel-cell and all-electric cars, which environmentalists say could play a vital role in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and slowing global warming. Among the overseas automakers attending are BMW, Peugeot Citroen, Porsche, Jaguar and crisis-hit Volkswagen, which is embroiled in one of the biggest scandals in the history of the automobile sector.

The silver line down the side of the body, for example, is actually an LED; when pedestrians or cyclists are nearby, the strip shines red, signalling that the car is aware of them. Nissan’s zero emission strategy centres on battery-powered electric cars; the aim is to develop better electric motors, batteries and inverters so it can mass-produce battery cars that equal or better the convenience of petrol-powered vehicles. We are entering an era of young drivers who cannot grasp the concept of life without an electronic device instantly to hand, and car designers need to understand that what moves young people today is not what moved their parents. According to Nissan product planning manager Hidemi Sasaki, what moves them is capturing experiences in photos and video, and sharing them; friends respond with ‘likes’ and share the experience further.

For the preople he calls ‘share natives’, he says, excitement comes not from ownership of material objects, but from using things to connect with friends and share enjoyment. It’s small (digital natives like small), battery powered because they’re more at ease with connecting their devices to chargers than having to visit a garage to re-fuel – and it can be used anywhere to recharge hand-held devices.

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