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Nissan to unveil sporty EV at Tokyo Motor Show

AFP-JIJI

Nissan Motor Co. said it will unveil a sporty concept electric vehicle at the Tokyo Motor Show as it presses on with its bid to tap the burgeoning market for eco-friendly cars.

The nation’s No. 2 automaker, which has sold the Leaf electric vehicle since late 2010, said Friday it hopes the Nissan BladeGlider will appeal to male drivers who want performance and style in environmentally friendly cars, seen as a major hurdle to widespread commercial sales.

The vehicle, to be unveiled at the biennial exhibition in Tokyo this month, features an aerodynamic design that widens toward the rear, with the steering wheel stationed in the middle and space for two passengers in the back. It measures 1 meter at the front and 1.9 meters at the back, and is made with lightweight carbon fibers.

“The driver’s seat has been positioned in the middle of the vehicle to give the sense of a pilot in an airborne glider,” while the design puts the vehicle’s center of mass on the rear tires to allow for tighter turns, Nissan said.

The Nissan BladeGlider is squarely aimed at moving into the higher-end electric vehicle market that has already been tapped with some success by U.S. automaker Tesla Motors Inc. Meanwhile, Toyota Motor Corp. said last week it plans to unveil its latest fuel-cell concept car at the Tokyo show, with an expected commercial rollout still two years away.

The world’s major automakers have been working on various environmentally friendly vehicles, ranging from electric cars to zero-emission fuel-cell models, in a market that still remains tiny. Range, performance, refueling infrastructure and relatively high prices have proved major obstacles to widespread sales.

Nissan said it has sold more than 80,000 Leaf electric vehicles worldwide since the rollout three years ago, a fraction of the 4.9 million cars the firm sold worldwide in its last fiscal year.

However, demand for lower-emission vehicles is forecast to grow, with further technological advances seen crucial due to toughening emissions standards.

Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn has been a major promoter of electric cars.

The company has invested about $5.4 billion (about ¥535 billion) in electric car development in a partnership with France’s Renault, which owns more than 40 percent of Nissan. Last week, the Renault-Nissan alliance announced an electric vehicle tie-up with Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

At the Tokyo Motor Show, which runs from Nov. 20 until Dec. 1, Nissan will also be showing off its second commercial electric vehicle, the e-NV200 minivan, which it unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. A total of 177 exhibitors will be at the show, including BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot.