Nissan: Electric Dreaming?

In-wheel electric motors could be on the road within five years.

Renault-Nissan commander-in-chief Carlos Ghosn is standing by his prediction that by the year 2020, 10 per cent of the world's cars will be electric. And he is ensuring his companies spend huge amounts of money on EV development to capitalise on this shift.

With around a billion or so cars on the road, that would mean 100 million of them will be electric. That's a lot of EVs...

But we're still only witnessing the infancy of the EV revolution says a top Nissan executive. Nissan's global design chief, Shiro Nakamura, says the next big step in electric car technology will be "wheel-in-motor" or electric motors located inside or near the car's wheels.

"The wheel-in-motor is one of the biggest breakthroughs for the next generation EV," he said.

When asked Nakamura-san about what lays ahead in its electric vehicle portfolio, he explained that a sports car is likely: "Yeah why not. We have been showing lots of concept cars for electric sports car. It's not just for fun.

"So for me, the wheel-in-motor is technically unique because you can control two wheels independently. So torque sensing is there... so you can manage it very easily. So you can get very nice handling for instance," he said, hinting at the performance upshot of such systems.

Nakamura revealed that the fourth or fifth EV from the company will use in-wheel electric motors and could be a sporty number. It will certainly make use of a new, second generation platform that will result in many improvements, particularly in the packaging department.

"LEAF, NV200 and Infiniti - this is first generation that's sharing the same powertrain, same battery. But after this we are trying to introduce new technology for EV platform.

"Wheel-in-motor is one of the new technologies we're thinking of. It's not just for show car, we are seriously investing [and] studying the opportunity for new technology. Particularly [because] you don’t need anything in front of the driver. It's completely open.

In terms of design, Nakamura's stock in trade, he said that in-wheel motors would take EV design forward, allowing stylists more room to move.

"Actually making a nice proportion for EV is not easy for a small car, but after introducing technology like wheel-in-motor, we don’t need motor in the front, so we have much more flexibility for the design."

As Nissan continues to research and develop in-wheel electric motors, the technology is still a handful of years away from production, says Nakamura.

"Maybe four or five years [at the] shortest. Many people saying current EV not as different to existing car, but this is first generation, this is the beginning of EV. We are gradually bringing in much different, more unique designs and proportions to EV."

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