TOKYO -- Nissan Motor Co. gives the public its first peek at the new Nissan Leaf electric car at this month's Tokyo Motor Show and will be touting much more than just its zero-emissions pedigree.
For starters, how about the bumper-to-bumper components made of recycled pop bottles and old clothes? Or the vehicle's new ultraquiet tires to muffle running noise? And don't forget the futuristic styling that also will appear in the Leaf's upcoming sibling models.
Nissan is banking on the Leaf to catapult it into the lead in the race for ultraclean vehicles. And selling the car may hinge on the appeal of its quirky, high-tech features as much as the merits of its battery-powered drivetrain.
The aim: Telegraph to customers that this is no ordinary car.
“There is no muffler, no exhaust system,” the Leaf's chief designer, Masato Inoue, said of the car, which will be the star of the Nissan stand during the Oct. 24-Nov. 4 auto show.
Aside from its 80-kilowatt motor and lithium ion batteries, the Leaf sports other novelties:
• Bumpers and interior trim made from recycled plastic bottles and fabrics.
• Batteries that can be recharged remotely through the driver's mobile phone.
• Special tires to reduce running noise usually masked by a noisy combustion engine.
• Rear tail fins to improve aerodynamics and deliver a slick 0.28 drag coefficient.
As of late last month, only two near-production Leafs existed worldwide. But Nissan is embarking on an ambitious plan to mass-produce them next year.
The company expects to have 20,000 Leafs pre-sold in the United States alone and wants to manufacture around 200,000 a year worldwide by 2012. The Leaf will have its global show debut in Tokyo.
At the show, Nissan also will exhibit the Land Glider, a two-seat, cocoonlike microcar. The Land Glider – battery-driven, like the Leaf -- leans into curves like a motorcycle.
A key to differentiating the Leaf from its gasoline-powered brethren is the V-shaped contours of the front hood and nose, as well as the vertical placement of the headlights. Similar design language will be employed in other electric vehicles Nissan is planning, Inoue says.
To imbue the Leaf with its high-tech aura, designers outfitted the car with blue-tinted light-emitting diode headlights and blue trim and lighting throughout the interior. It also gets a shift-by-wire mouse-type shift knob inspired by the trackball used in video games.
The Leaf also lacks a gas cap lid. Instead, it has a recharge port hidden under the Nissan badge at the front of the car. And just in case there are still any doubts the Leaf is different, Nissan makes sure to dispel them with repeated application of a “zero emission” logo.