Built on a unique platform, the Nissan Nuvu is just 3 metres long and sits on a wheelbase of 1980 mm but is 1700 mm wide and 1550 mm tall to create a large and airy cabin.
The Nuvu (‘new view’) Concept expresses the idea of a "moving oasis" of green tranquillity in the urban jungle. Across its all-glass roof are a dozen of small solar panels, shaped like leaves on a branch.
Tthe power they generate is fed to the battery using a ‘tree trunk’ within the car as a conduit.
Nuvu also uses natural, organic and recycled materials within the cabin.
To create a light and bright interior, the windscreen and roof merge into one extended panel running virtually the entire length of the car.
These dimensions provide all the interior room needed for the majority of city journeys.
Nuvu has two regular seats and a third occasional chair that can be folded down when required.
The luggage area provides sufficient space for a typical supermarket or shopping expedition.
“It is a real car,” says Bancon. “There would be no disadvantages to using a Nuvu everyday.
"For the majority of users, three seats are more than enough most of the time.”
The packaging is designed to give priority to driver comfort with C-segment levels of space and the flexibility to invite one or two passengers on board.
Cabin layout places the regular passenger seat beside but largely behind the driver’s seat, allowing the passenger to stretch right out.
Ahead of this seat is a third occasional chair which, when not in use, is folded away into the dashboard assembly. But even when the third seat is in use, there remains sufficient legroom for both passengers.
To save space, the third seat has a centre section made from hardwearing yet comfortable netting.
This hammock-like approach also has the benefit of allowing cool or warm air to circulate around the occupant’s body for extra comfort.
Shopping bags, briefcases and smaller items of luggage can be stowed behind the driver’s seat while if the driver is travelling solo, larger items can be stowed in the passenger footwall.
The Energy Tree
The energy tree is shaped like a thin trunk. As it reaches daylight it branches out under the glass roof providing occupants with protection from bright sunlight, just like a real tree.
Covering the branches are dozens of small solar panels shaped like leaves.
The panels absorb energy from the sun which is then fed back down the energy tree and used to help recharge the battery and provide an extra power boost for the electric motor.
It is estimated that the power generated via the solar panels will save the equivalent of one full overnight charge each month.
All the major functions – steering, braking, transmission and throttle – are ‘By-Wire’ while the steering is controlled by an aircraft-style steering yoke: with just one turn from lock to lock, the steering is very direct for agility and manoeuvrability in the city.
Nuvu’s turning circle is just 3.7 metres. Good levels of ride comfort, stability and agility are achieved thanks to its wide track and the use of 16 inch 165/55 tyres mounted on lightweight, almost transparent, wheels.
Two screens on the dashboard display the view behind the car – there are no door mirrors to disturb the airflow, but small cameras – and double as monitors for the Around View Camera which give a bird’s eye view of the car when manoeuvering or parking.
The heating and ventilation system filters and cleans the city air as it passes through the vehicle.
Many of the materials used inside Nuvu reflect an increasing concern for the environment. The conventional moulded plastics and synthetic elements have been replaced by natural materials and organic alternatives: the floor is made from wood fibres pressed into laminate sheets and is studded with rubber inserts made from recycled tyres for grip. The result helps create a relaxed, warm atmosphere within Nuvu’s cabin.
“We did a great deal of research into how people use their cars in the city. We found that for 90 percent of the time, the driver was alone." says Francois Bancon, General Manager, Exploratory and Advanced Planning Department, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.
"For five percent of the time there was one passenger and for four percent of the time there were two passengers."
“We gave the second seat much more room than normal because when you take one passenger in your car it is usually someone you love and you want to make sure he or she is being carried in outstanding comfort,” he adds.
The distinctive shape of the door glass on either side gives the impression of a hot air balloon that’s being gently inflated by pressure from within, while tropical fish inspired the profile of the side window graphics as a whole.
This contrast between the natural, fluid shape of the greenhouse and the strength implied by the solidity of the lower body gives Nuvu a feeling of quality rarely found in a compact car.
During the design development stage, key targets were to develop an EV that encompassed obvious modernity with engaging ambience and a playful aspect – hence the energy tree.
Nuvu is a fully working mobile test bed for much of the technology that will be used in Nissan’s production EV to be launched in 2010. For this reason elements of its technical specification are being kept secret for the time being.
The electric motor used in Nuvu is mounted at the rear of the vehicle and drives the back wheels, though neither its exact specification nor the power and torque figures are being released at this stage. A driving range of 125 kms and top speed of 120 km/h are being made public, however.
The batteries used are of the latest laminated lithium-ion type and have a capacity of 140 Wh/kg (watt-hours per kilogram), the total capacity of the batteries and number of modules are not being disclosed at this stage.
Unlike a conventional lithium-ion battery with its bulky cylindrical cells, the laminated Li-Ion battery as used in Nuvu has thin laminated cells and fewer components overall.
This boosts its power by a factor of 1.5 at the same time as halving its physical size. It also remains twice as efficient as a conventional cylindrical Li-Ion battery even after five years or 100,000 kms of continuous usage.
Another bonus of the compact cell construction is that a thin modular design is possible with a commensurate improvement in battery cooling efficiency. Higher power outputs are achieved through material improvements made to its lithium manganate positive electrode and carbon negative electrode. The use of chemically stable spinal-structured manganese for the positive electrode also helps ensure safe operation.
Its compact size allows the batteries to be mounted under the seats and the vehicle’s flat floor, thus helping to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible.
A quick charge from empty to full should take between 10 to 20 minutes while a full charge should take between three to four hours from a domestic 220V socket.
About Creative Box Inc.
Much of the research in the concept that became Nuvu was carried out by a maverick design studio called Creative Box Inc. Although wholly owned by Nissan, Creative Box is run as an independent offshoot where the company’s young designers are given a free rein to develop ideas and concepts for tomorrow.
Opened in 1987 in the Harajuku area of Tokyo, the designers are influenced by the urban buzz all around them. Away from the constraints of Nissan’s corporate HQ, the designers set their own working hours so as not to limit their creativity.
A youthful part of the city, Harajuku is home to unusual architecture, the latest in fashions and style, street theatre, new music and avant-garde food.
The designers are a diverse mix of people from all over the globe, producing designs that challenge convention. Concepts developed at Creative Box are just the sort of cars the young designers would like to drive themselves: they are, in effect, their own target audience.
Nissan Nuvu Concept – Technical Specifications
Driving range (km)
Max speed (km/h)
laminated lithium-ion battery
Capacity per kg (Wh/kg)
quick charger: 10-20 min; home-use 220V charger: 3-4 hrs
Under seat & floor