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by Tim Beissmann

Nissan’s creative mastermind believes the emergence of new electric vehicle technologies over the next five to 10 years could lead to dramatically different vehicles designs to what we know today.

Nissan chief creative officer Shiro Nakamura says the progression of in-wheel electric motors in particular could see future production cars take on unprecedented shapes and styles.

“We have been creating lots of concept cars with in-wheel motors,” Nakamura told Australian media, including CarAdvice, at the 2012 New York auto show. “It’s not just for show cars. We are seriously investigating the opportunity for new technology.”

He said removing the motor from the front of the car created much more freedom for designers of second-generation EVs, which could hit the road within four or five years.

“After introducing new technology like in-wheel motor, we don’t need motor in the platform, so we have much more flexibility for designing.

“I think in-wheel motor is one of the biggest breakthrough for the next-generation EV.”

Nakamura believes it is important the next wave of EVs looks different to internal combustion engined-vehicles, not just cosmetically, but in terms of their architecture and proportions.

“Many people are saying current EV is not as different from existing car. That’s true, but this is the first generation, this is the beginning of EV. We are gradually bringing much different and unique design and proportions to EV.

“In 10 years time, I think… you can see clearly this is an EV. You cannot create this proportion, this architecture, by normal petrol engine. So it’s coming, maybe in a decade.”

Nissan has sold more pure electric cars than any other manufacturer, with its first model, the Leaf, recently passing 25,000 global sales. The zero tailpipe-emission hatchback will be joined by an electric version of the NV200 commercial van and a four-door based on the Infiniti LE concept in the short term.

Beyond that, Nakamura says Nissan is considering all options for expanding its EV family, including sports cars.

“Yeah, why not. We have been showing lots of concept cars for electric sports car. It’s not just for fun.

“We’re are still investigating a smaller commuter or sports car. There are many, many opportunities there.”

“Our unique concept car, the Pivo (first image), very unique cabin rotating – that’s serious. It looks funny, but the technology is very serious. It’s not just making a fun car. Behind the fun design, the technology underneath is very serious, very sophisticated.”