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Car design inverted, Nissan thinks about electric pickup

The way automakers make cars is being reversed, and it’s all about physics.

We got an insight into today’s vehicle design by sitting down with Nissan’s Senior Vice President of Global Design, Alfonso Albaisa, at New York Auto Show 2022. The designer also gave us some hints about the future, including an electric pickup.

Nissan EV . teaser

Nissan EV . teaser

Reverse car design

According to Albaisa, car design in the modern era has become a numbers game. Before a vehicle is designed, the volume of space and the target drag coefficient are established in stone. That’s the marker. The rest is shaped, sculpted and designed around these figures. This is the opposite of how it used to be.

“In the old days, aerodynamics was something we were working on after designing a design,” says Albaisa. Efficiency is almost an afterthought, but there’s no mass and air target to design around.

The process of designing a car now begins with shaping and setting the position of the nose of the car. This relates to the height of the front end, hood line and neckline. All of this plays a role in achieving the target drag coefficient for the particular vehicle. The rest comes later at this point.

Reversing the process wasn’t easy, the executive said, and then it turned into a battle of proportions. How do the length, width, shape, and taper of the cabin all affect the shape of the headlights, the size of the body, and the shape of the skin (metal)? Some of the tricks that appear on mainstream family models include openings, or ducts, in the front bumper to direct airflow around the front as seen on the latest Rogue crossover SUV. According to the veteran designer, this has to do with width and if wind can cleanly pass through the car and it varies from vehicle to vehicle. Just because a car is wider doesn’t mean it needs ducts to direct the wind around the front. Albaisa notes that the Pathfinder doesn’t have any ducts on the front, despite being wider than the Rogue.

Albaisa noted that the future lineup of Nissans is already pre-designed and sitting in his studio in Japan, but he wouldn’t say how many have already been designed.

Nissan Surf-Out concept

Nissan Surf-Out concept

An electric Nissan pickup

Nissan’s pickup truck started out in the US in 1959 as the Datsun B-10, and it may not be ending the road any time soon. The new border is the starting point for the automaker, and perhaps not the finale.

Albaisa said to GHOST he informed his team to “start thinking, because pickup truck development will not be like other cars.”

The executive noted that the Japanese company invented a type of small pickup truck known as a “small pickup” in the 70s and 80s. It was part of the automaker’s logo. .

Nissan Surf-Out concept

Nissan Surf-Out concept

In November, Nissan has provided the first details of its comprehensive electrification plan. Four concept vehicles were part of that rollout, including a lifestyle-driven pickup truck called the Surf-Out. The concept featured a single cabin body with a removable roof. The Surf-Out idea was the result of Albaisa instructing his team to think about the electric future, with trucks included in his mind. The CEO was quick to note that the concept isn’t tied to production, but rather “that little car makes sense.” We’ll have to wait and see what that means.

Alabaisa could not comment on the position of an electric pickup truck in the near term by the automaker, but he said Nissan makes trucks.

As for the retro design influence, Albaisa said the automaker will only do it when it makes sense. The Ariya is a new nametag, so it has a design that is all its own. If the automaker makes the Murano EV, executives will think about going back in time. “The first generation of Murano was spectacular,” said Albaisa, followed by “the second one was not.”

Alabaisa notes that the young designers on his team were born in the 1980s, and they tend to be obsessed with the looks of that era.

Nissan Max-Out concept

Nissan Max-Out concept

For sports car and road car enthusiasts, Albaisa says a Fairlady (a reference to the Datsun convertible built in the 1960s) can harken back to the pre-electrical era before quickly making a car. body does not say more. Nissan spokesman Dan Passe notes that once you have an EV skateboard “you can build anything.” One of four concepts in November, called the Max-Out, was a roadster. It’s not classic or in any way really associated with a Fairlady in design, but it is a roadster.

The interview did not confirm any future electric sports car plans, but it did reveal that Nissan is thinking about one, as well as some kind of electric pickup.

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