BEIJING — Making electric vehicles stand out in the crowd wasn't so difficult when Nissan Motor Co. created its Leaf hatchback a decade ago. That car could afford quirky looks that set it apart.
But as Nissan embarks on a new EV product blitz with eight planned models and a target of selling 1 million electrified vehicles in five years, EV design will need to address more issues, said Satoru Tai, Nissan's executive design director.
Nissan's future EV styling strategy is still a work in progress, Tai said, but one hallmark will be roomier interiors.
"There will be a spaciousness created by the EV layout," Tai said during last month's Beijing auto show. "It's not about exterior styling."
Exteriors can be tailored to segments and tastes, he said. But common to all Nissan EVs will be roomy cabins made possible by the architecture of their powertrains, he said. Without a bulky engine up front, interior space can be brought forward. And without a clumsy center tunnel to channel a transmission, the floor can be flat and open.
EVs also lend themselves to more simplified instrumentation for an uncluttered dash, Tai said.
"We want to create an EV-unique expression," he said. "We don't have an answer yet."
Tai, wearing his signature black skullcap, said he has an affinity for roomy vehicles and enjoys penning commercial vehicles. He has a boxy gray Caravan minivan in his home garage.
Tai said Nissan's IMx Concept crossover, unveiled at last autumn's Tokyo Motor Show, provides some clues for future EV design language. The IMx's fastback silhouette and sloping hood aid aerodynamics, while boomerang headlamps and taillights lend a futuristic look. Aggressive vents embellish the front and rear.
Inside, a panoramic display wraps around the bottom of the windshield before melding into woodgrain-finished paneling. The digital display recedes behind the paneling and illuminates through the woodgrain lines to create a more open, airy atmosphere.
Nissan's sales goal of 1 million electrified vehicles by March 31, 2023, includes pure electrics and hybrids.
The tally will get a boost from the wider introduction of Nissan's new e-Power setup, a range-extender hybrid system it is already selling in Japan and will bring to other markets.
The eight new EVs will come on top of Nissan's current offerings, the Leaf and eNV200 van. One will be an all-electric crossover based on the IMx concept.