Nissan reveals multitasking commercial vehicle

  • 11-Dec-2008 11:18 EST
The NV2500 Concept, bearing the exterior logo of Habitat for Humanity, has a 147.6-in (3750-mm) wheelbase and is powered by a V8 engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission.

Nissan's first commercial vehicle for the U.S. and Canada is months from being produced, but the automaker's recent world debut of the NV2500 Concept hints at what is to come.

"The NV2500 Concept is conceived as a fresh approach to a one-box utility van," Joe Castelli, Vice President of Commercial Vehicles and Fleet for Nissan North America, said during the December unveiling of the concept vehicle at the Nissan Technical Center North America (NTCNA) in Farmington Hills, MI.

With six doors and a flip-up side panel, the NV2500 Concept spotlights conventional hinges. "When you hinge the door open, the inside becomes the outside and you can't do that with a sliding door," said Bruce Campbell, Vice President of Design for Nissan Design America in San Diego, CA.

The 60/40 vertically split rear-cargo access doors and the mid-vehicle 90-degree-opening door—located behind the front passenger door—feature inner panel storage spaces for tools. "We're maximizing the opportunities because, with a sliding door, it just slides against the panel and you're locked in; you can't use it," said Campbell.

An automatic, step-assist into the rear of the vehicle was developed by California-based AMP Research. The cargo floor is made of recycled bamboo, while a fixed-glass roof panel "incorporates the idea of using solar panels as a means of charging cordless drills and other things," said Campbell.

The cargo zone includes a workshop table that is at an appropriate height for someone seated inside the vehicle, but the tabletop can flip 180 degrees to provide a standing-height work table beneath an awning-style panel outside the vehicle. A 360-degree rotating passenger seat can access the cargo area's computer workstation.

"We executed a full-size mockup of the interior, which included a plywood floor and a few foam-core sections. We were trying to conceptualize what the interior would be, and I remember just grabbing an office chair and putting it in the passenger seat space and seeing how it could go from there to a computer station, and that led to this configuration," Campbell said, referring to the passenger seat structure including a cantilevered arm with a pivot.

A lighted storage closet, behind the driver's seat, has an "aluminum mesh for putting muddy or wet boots," Campbell said about the stow compartment's drainable floor system. Other NV2500 Concept features include cargo-zone power outlets, ceiling-mounted interior cooling fan, and an instrument panel with integrated power outlet and extension cord.

Robert Sump, Vice President of Components Engineering for NTCNA, said his group is involved in the production version of the vehicle, but "we obviously follow what goes on with the concept and make sure that we're not showing anything that is completely out-of-bounds."  Feedback from dealers, customers, and others will influence what happens next. "We're able to take that input and put it into the future design," said Sump.

The production version of the NV2500 Concept—built on a modified all-steel, fully boxed ladder frame of the Nissan Titan full-size pickup—will be assembled in Canton, MI, in 2010 as a MY2011 light commercial vehicle. Currently, the Nissan Altima, Armada, Quest, Titan, and Infiniti QX56 are built at the 3.5 million ft² Canton plant.

To accommodate assembly of the NV2500, as well as other commercial vehicles, Nissan is investing $118 million in a plant expansion that will include modifying current production lines. The next-generation Titan will be produced via an agreement with Chrysler. Altima is slated to continue production at the Canton facility, but details on the next-generation Armada, Quest, and QX56 were unavailable at press time.

The light commercial vehicles up to Class 5 that will be produced in the Canton facility are slated to include gasoline engines and Cummins diesel engines. Transmissions for the light commercial vehicles will be provided via an agreement with ZF. According to Castelli, a hybrid-electric powertrain is possible as "everything is on the table."

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