The Nissan BladeGlider concept is poised to make its debut at the forthcoming Tokyo motor show. More than a flight of fancy for the Japanese automaker, the company has earmarked the vehicle for development as a halo car for its EV range.
Designed by senior designer Randy Rodriguez at Nissan’s California-based design studio, the three-passenger electric vehicle features a low, flat and narrow nose and a bodyline that rises to the cockpit canopy and then curves forcefully back over the large rear wheels.
“The biggest challenge was designing around this proportion, which is completely new in car design,” Rodriguez told Form Trends in an exclusive interview. “Until the DeltaWing came along and proved itself no one really considered this a realistic layout. It was a challenge to design it to be highly functional as it has much innovation — and to a degree some production engineering — all the while keeping it attractive.”
At the front, the full width headlamps protrude dramatically from the main surface, jutting out like wings ahead of the front fender. Its concave surfacing in the lower doors further serves to accentuate its deltoid body, which is wrapped in ultra-lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) body panels contrasting pearlescent white with glittering black.
Rodriguez says the concept reference was a glider: “but I also really wanted to inject more inspiration from jet fighters like the F14 and F117 for really spirited driving.”
With a narrow, 1.0m-wide front track and a much larger rear track, the BladeGlider echoes the DeltaWing architecture to optimize aerodynamics and balance. Its F1-honed carbon fiber chassis and 30:70 weight distribution are all benefits from lessons learned in the DeltaWing project, which led to the Nissan ZEOD RC that’s set to make its debut at next year’s Le Mans 24 Hour race.
The BladeGlider’s developmental focus was aerodynamics: to achieve low drag while generating high downforce. Working in close collaboration with aerodynamic engineers, the car’s clean, contemporary exterior design is underscored by a carbon fiber-reinforced plastic underbody that negates the need for spoilers.
“The goal was to revolutionize the architecture of the vehicle to provoke new emotions, provide new value and make visible for consumers how Zero Emissions can help redefine our conception of vehicle basics,” said Francois Bancon, division general manager of Product Strategy and Product Planning at Nissan.
The BladeGlider employs in-wheel electric motors in its rear wheels, powered by lithium-ion batteries mounted low in the floor and towards the rear to enhance handling and improve stability. This also opens up new possibilities for designers and increases cabin space.
Inside, the triangular configuration and driver center-forward driving position call to mind the McLaren F1 designed by Peter Stevens.
Covered in lightweight materials and accented by yellow fluorescent lines, the seating has been placed at the longitudinal center of gravity to maintain the car’s balance. The driver’s seat automatically slides laterally when the scissor-like door is opened to enable easy access.
The driving position is designed to enhance the driver’s sensatory experience, featuring an aircraft-type steering wheel and instrumentation technology. To support maximum EV cruising efficiency, the IT system can display relief maps and atmospheric conditions to amplify the glider-like image.
“BladeGlider was conceived around delivering a glider-like exhilaration that echoes its lightweight, downsized hyper-efficient aerodynamic form,” said Shiro Nakamura, Nissan’s senior vice president and chief creative officer. “This design is more than revolutionary; it’s transformational, applying our most advanced electric drivetrain technology and racetrack-inspired styling in the service of a new dimension of shared driving pleasure.”