Nissan concept demonstrates flexible layout

  • 22-Oct-2010 09:19 EDT

Nissan's Townpod concept is designed to appeal to those who need both car and cargo van. (John Kendall)

The Townpod concept from Nissan shares its electric-drivetrain architecture with the forthcoming production Leaf and, therefore, has many similarities with Renault’s electric vehicles and concepts shown at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, including the Zoe Preview concept, Kangoo ZE, and Fluence ZE. That means an electric motor driving the front wheels with energy stored in lithium-ion batteries.

From that common architecture, the Townpod heads in a different direction. Nissan describes the car as a simple platform, which users can tailor to their own needs. It’s designed to be a passenger car or light commercial vehicle, depending on the user’s requirements. Nissan envisages buyers to be self-employed, with a range of needs for their business and leisure time, reflecting their choice of a vehicle that can provide flexible transport.

To that end, it has a low, flat floor with a sliding rear seat of narrow cross section that will fold right into the front seats to provide extra cargo space. Access to the rear is through two side hinged rear doors similar to those fitted to a van. The doors have been designed to slide so they can be opened in confined spaces and folded to the side of the body to minimize obstruction. A sunroof above the rear seat/cargo area would allow tall objects to be carried.

Access to the front of the car is by a pair of doors on each side, the front doors forward hinged and the rear doors with rear hinges. With no B-pillar, there is clear access to the front and rear seats. Simple molded surfaces form the dashboard, which features rounded troughs running horizontally in a continuous line across the passenger side and into the door panel. A similar trough is used on the driver’s door panel and in the center console.

The troughs are designed to accommodate the Puck, which is a rubber ball similar in size to a squash ball with a groove set into it that can accommodate drink holders, bag hooks, cell phone holders, or whatever is needed. The pucks can be slotted into the troughs as required. "In this way, owners can easily customize the interior of Nissan Townpod to suit their particular needs," said Masato Inoue, Product Chief designer of Nissan. “The system is completely open source; we encourage individuals or other organizations to come up with accessories to complement this platform.”

The dash panel carries two digital screens, the upper functioning as an instrument panel and the lower to control the navigation system, carry out system checks, and operate the audio system.

Externally, the car features a short hood that flows into the upright cabin area, with similarities to the Nissan Cube. Beneath the Nissan badge at the front, a panel hinges forward to reveal the recharging point. At the rear, the curve in the lower section of the back doors is designed to echo a 1950s hot rod, helping to disguise the van-style doors.

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