TOKYO — The Nissan IMq crossover concept uses the brand’s e-Power hybrid system in a sign of how the technology might be introduced in the automaker’s global markets.
The angular, deeply creased concept might also hint at an electrified next-generation Qashqai, if the “q” in its name is indeed a nod to Nissan’s best-selling nameplate in Europe.
That model is sold as the Rogue Sport in the U.S., and Nissan has said it wants to export e-Power from Japan to the rest of the world, possibly ramping up its size for bigger vehicles.
“Now we start showing what e-Power means. For us, e-Power is part of electrification,” the Japanese automaker’s global design chief, Alfonso Albaisa, said ahead of the unveiling at the Geneva auto show on Tuesday.
“This vehicle is really showing how the umbrella of EVs has a couple of tonalities,” he said. “When e-Power goes abroad, it takes on the attitude of a powerful technology, more assertive. This is not a shy powertrain. This is not about frugality or sipping fuel. It’s power.”
The IMq shares many of the styling cues from previous show cars in the IM series. They take their names from Nissan Intelligent Mobility, the brand’s buzzword for its strategy to lead in three next-generation trends: autonomy, electrification and connectivity.
But unlike the IMx crossover concept shown at the Tokyo auto Show in 2017 or the IMx high-riding sedan concept shown at Detroit in January, the IMq is not a pure electric vehicle.
Instead, the IMq is positioned with Nissan’s next-generation e-Power setup, a range-extender hybrid system it is already selling in Japan and will bring to other markets.
E-Power gets a small gasoline-burning engine that acts as a generator to make the electricity that runs the vehicle’s electric motor. The engine doesn’t directly turn the wheels. Rather, the electric motor does, making the IMq drive with all the instant, linear acceleration of a pure EV. E-Power is already offered as an option in Japan in the Note compact car and Serena family van.
In the IMq, the system is envisioned as delivering total output of 250 kilowatts. The powertrain would combine a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine with a multi-motor all-wheel drive layout.
Need to breathe
The IMq shares some of the sheer surfaces and dramatic angles of the other IM concepts. But the design also takes an important form-follows-function departure from those pure EVs.
“This needs to breathe. It has an engine that’s not constantly charging, but when it’s needed, it charges. So, it must be cooled. So, it has a grille,” Albaisa said. “There’s going to be a different language in the front face because of the functional needs of e-Power.”
E-Power has been a surprise hit in Japan, where it is a popular option in the Note and Serena.
It is also an important technology in Nissan’s global electrification plans.
Last year, Nissan said it will launch eight new electrified vehicles in a push to hit annual sales of 1 million battery-powered vehicles by 2022. Nissan’s sales goal includes pure electrics and hybrids.
Sales of vehicles equipped with e-Power will account for more than half the total, Chief Planning Officer Philippe Klein said at the time. Infiniti will get its first electric vehicle in 2021, and about half of the luxury brand’s sales will be either full electric or e-Power by 2025, the company said.
Klein has said e-Power technology will make it to America as an option on high-end vehicles.
Still unclear is when it will arrive and in which brands. But Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said last year that the Infiniti premium brand will begin offering e-Power in the near future.
Aside from electrification, the IMq incorporates other aspects of Nissan Intelligent Mobility.
It showcases and advanced prototype version of Nissan’s ProPilot driving assistance system, as well as the Invisible-to-Visible technology Nissan introduced at this year’s CES trade show.
The new ProPilot prototype is geared toward navigating intersections in urban driving.
The Invisible-to-Visible technology promises to improve driver visibility, as well as help plot out driving information such as traffic jams, thanks to a blending of sensing the real world outside the car and the harnessing of cloud data from the virtual world. The information is meshed together for the driver, helping the car’s occupants see much more than they can with their naked eyes.
It can even create a 3D augmented reality avatar to keep solo drivers company.
The IMq also rides on 22-inch Bridgestone Connect “smart tires” that communicate information such as tire load, pressure, temperature and tread depth to the driver.
But in a nod to tradition, Nissan’s design team also gave the IMq a modern Japanese flair.
Inside, a “gliding” wing instrument panel dominates the forward view, while a center console reaches between the two front seats and into the rear for a unique sense of space. Meanwhile, seating fabric is laser-cut in an intricate geometric design inspired by Japanese kumiko woodwork.