Nissan tries tiny mobility concept on New York

Nissan's New Mobility Concept comes in a one-set or a two-seat layout. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

NEW YORK -- Nissan used the cover of the New York auto show to test the waters for one of its oddest new vehicles, a battery-powered one-seat car with no windows that it calls the Nissan New Mobility Concept.

The name is almost longer than the car.

It measures 92 inches in length, compared to the 163-inch length of Nissan’s smallest U.S. model, the Versa Note.

Based on the Renault Twizy from its French partner, the Nissan concept has been undergoing market tests the past few months in San Francisco. Ten of the ultra-compact cars are on the streets there as part of an urban car-sharing rental service called Scoot Networks.

Scoot, which primarily rents scooters, offers the car as the Scoot Quad.

Josh Westerhold, senior manager of Nissan’s concept think-tank unit, Future Lab, says the company wants to know whether the battery vehicle could be a bona fide product someday.

“What would the business case have to look like,” Westerhold said. “Who would use it? How would they use it?”

Photo credit: LINDSAY CHAPPELL

The car comes in a one-set or a two-seat layout. In addition to having no windows, the version that Future Lab turned loose on the streets of Manhattan had one small windshield wiper, no heat or air conditioning, no audio or navigation technology, and delivered top speeds of 25 mph.

That makes the car a “neighborhood electric vehicle,” legal for streets with posted speed limits of no more than 35 mph, and not sanctioned for highway driving.

The vehicle’s 6.1-kWh battery provides about 40 miles of city driving range.

“We think there could be applications,” Westerhold says. “Urban rental, college campuses.

“More and more people are moving into urban environments in the United States, and they are becoming more congested. Car ownership is a challenge. Parking is difficult.

“This is a car that can fit nose-to-curb in a standard street parking space, so you can fit three of them in one space,” he says.

Nissan is also conducting focus groups on the concept in other cities to see what people like about it, Westerhold says.

“It doesn’t have a lot of things people are used to having in their car,” he says. “Our question is, does that really matter?”

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com

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