Nissan Denki Cube Concept

March 20, 2008
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Nissan puts a battery in a box with the squared-off Denki Cube Concept, making its debut at the 2008 New York Auto Show.

The show car was designed to deliver several key messages for the Asian automaker. First, it showcases Nissan’s new small car strategy, revealing a lightly modified version of the quirky Cube, already a hit in the Japanese market. A version of the Cube is expected to make its way across the Pacific in the next few years.

The 2009 Nissan Denki Cube Concept also highlights the automaker “Green Program 2010,” under which Nissan plans to roll out an array of high-mileage, low-emissions products, using an assortment of advanced powertrains, including hybrids, diesels and possibly even electric propulsion.

With Denki, Cube’s standard, 1.3-liter, inline four-cylinder gasoline engine has been replaced with an electric motor drawing power from a set of laminated lithium-ion batteries mounted under both the floor and seats. The unusual battery design, Nissan claims, would permit the storage of more energy – about twice the amount stored by conventional, cylindrical batteries, Nissan claims -- which translates into added range. Another advantage is that the batteries can be molded into unusual shapes, to take advantage of unused space. Conventional batteries can pose nightmarish packaging problems for designers and engineers.

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The 2009 Denki Cube Concepts exterior features an “electric themed” front grille, with an AC charging port built in. Lightning headlamps underscore the EV theme. Cube’s trademark, asymmetrical rear gets a new bumper, with hidden taillights, while the production car’s sheet metal roof has been replaced by a fixed glass panel.

The interior of the show car is, according to Nissan, intended to create, “a relaxing, moving social hub, like a favorite room in an owner’s house.” The Japanese Cube features three-row seating, but while the showcar’s wheelbase has actually been stretched 9.4 inches, that added length has been used to store more batteries, and the Denki Concept now has two rows of seats.

“The Denki Cube Concept is a fun way to expose American buyers to one of Nissan’s most popular home market cars at a time when fuel economy and packaging efficiency are on a lot of people’s minds,” said Al Castignetti, senior vice president, sales and marketing, Nissan North America, Inc. “Like the production Cube on which it is based, the Denki Cube Concept is boxy yet charming, fashionable and functional, and completely tuned in to today’s needs for enjoyable efficiency.”

While there appear to be no immediate plans to produce an electric version of the Cube, Nissan appears to be enamored with battery power, especially in the home Japanese market, where relatively short commutes make the technology commercially feasible. In the U.S., pure battery power seems less likely to gain a market niche, at least without further improvements to battery technology.

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