Powered by an electric powertrain with Lithium-Ion batteries – the same powertrain of the Nissan Leaf – the Nissan Townpod is a stylish family car that offers the flexbility of a light commercial vehicle.
The exterior design is characterized by a boxy-shape, with vertical side panels, high waistline and glass surfaces with a reduced height.
In the rear and side view it is easy to recognize a strong inspiration from the Nissan Cube, while at the front designers have used a less minivan-like look that uses the current brand’s styling cues.
Passengers can enter the cabin very easily thanks to the sliding rear doors and the absence of the B-pillar. Access to the cargo area is also very easy thanks to the split trunk doors, which can slide and fold to the side.
The interior design features a strong contrast between the yellow color of the front section and the dark blue of the rear area, which visually underlines the mix of fun and business-oriented features.
The seats are very thin and the rear bench can fold and slide right into the back of the front seats, freeing the entire, flat-bottomed space behind and turning the Townpod into a true compact commerial vehicle.
From the official Press Release:
Charging points can be found in the nose behind an automatically retracting cover, which appears to be backlit thanks to its electric blue painted surrounds reflecting subtly off the car’s "Stratosphere White" body paint.
Similar electric blue hints are visible behind the door handles, number plate, the spokes of the alloy wheels and within the headlamp pods.
The headlights reflect Nissan Townpod’s philosophy of stylish utility by serving as position markers when the blue "petals" are closed and headlights when open, while the external location of the pods eases basic maintenance. Similarly, the semi-silvered coating over the indicators is not just for effect. The mirror-like finish turns them into modern reflectors when the turn signals are not in use.
The innovative position of the headlights also allows a coupe-esque bonnet line, not dissimilar to Nissan Z, which feeds in to a visor-like wraparound, blue tinted glass house, reminiscent of Nissan Cube, while the galls to body proportions hark back to the rat-rods of the fifties.
The car is decidedly more van-like with its split rear doors. The rear features back lights on the right, a number plate on the left, and a rear-door handle set into a concave surface . Viewed from above the car’s space-maximising rectangular footprint flows into an elliptical roof, offering more graceful lines as well as increased aerodynamic efficiency.
The rear lights are designed to reflect light like cut jewels when not in use, and to sparkle rather than simply glow when illuminated. Innovative hinges allow the rear doors to slide, then open in confined spaces and then fold to the side of the car so as not to obstruct passing traffic or pedestrians. As the rear lights are positioned in the all encompassing rear doors a second set of position and indicator lights is located in the bottom sill of the doorway. A hatch-like sun roof, directly above the cargo area, allows Nissan Townpod to carry taller objects.
The idea of simple form following function continues within Nissan Townpod. The cargo area, passenger space and dashboard are remarkably uncluttered yet do not feel spartan. Just because the interior is utilitarian by design does not mean that it cannot be stylish.
The driver is faced with an uncomplicated yet futuristic steering wheel and two familiar stalks to operate the lights and wipers, but other than these controls – which are beautifully simple in their own light – the flowing dashboard is devoid of mechanical switches.
Forward or rearward drive is selected using an uncomplicated joystick set into the right-hand side of the driver’s seat base.
All controls for ancillaries such as climate control and media playback are accessed through two centrally mounted digital screens. The upper monitor serves as an instrument panel, displaying car speed, battery status and remaining range as well as a satellite navigation system. This system is also equipped with Bluetooth wireless technology, allowing it to communicate with the driver’s Personal Digital Assistant (PDA).
Masato Inoue, Product Chief designer of Nissan, explains, "Today, the first thing many people do when they climb aboard their car is program the navigation unit with a phone number, address or other details. This step will be unnecessary in Nissan Townpod as the car will communicate with your PDA’s scheduling function to find out where you are due to be and at what time.
"Accordingly, the navigation system will not only plot a route to your next meeting, but will map out a plan for all your appointments that day. If, due to unexpected traffic delays for example, one appointment appears likely to clash with another, the car will let you know so you can take appropriate action. It will also be able to suggest the most convenient time and place for you to recharge its lithium-ion batteries."
The lower touchscreen provides all controls for the navigation system, allows users to perform system checks on the whole car and operates Nissan Townpod’s audio system.
"Who knows how we will store music in 2020?" says Bancon. "Not so long ago cars were fitted with cassette players, then CD players and now we must be iPodTM compatible. This will not remain the same for long, so Nissan Townpod must be forwards compatible with whatever must-have device sits in our future."
Just as Nissan Townpod can connect wirelessly with the driver’s PDA, so it will also be able to access occupants personal music collections, or what ever device they use to receive Internet radio.
"These devices may remain in passengers’ pockets, but it is also beneficial to keep them in within view, in some kind of bracket. But we do not know what these devices of the future will look like, let alone where passengers will want to keep them. So, we have developed The Puck", Bancon concluded.
The Puck is a rubber ball, about the size of a squash ball, with a wide groove cut into it.
This groove can accommodate drink holders, cell-phone rests, hand-bag hooks or other items Nissan or third-party manufacturers think will be useful as the tools we use in our daily lives evolve. The Pucks themselves slot into rounded troughs set into the car’s dashboard, doors and center console. Their position and orientation are ultimately decided by the user, not the car’s designers.
"In this way, owners can easily customize the interior of Nissan Townpod to suit their particular needs. The system is completely open source – we encourage individuals or other organizations to come up with accessories to complement this platform, " Inoue said. "We have only begun to scratch the surface of the possibilities for the system."