This is the Nissan IMx concept, a fully autonomous electric crossover SUV that looks like an origami creation and has eye-based gesture control. It’s the star of the company’s stand at this year’s bustling Tokyo motor show.
Under the wild concept design sits a new Renault-Nissan global skateboard-style EV platform that allows a completely flat floor inside, and positions battery weight low to improve the centre of gravity.
The IMx has two electric motors mounted front and rear, giving the car all-wheel drive (AWD) capability. Combined system outputs are a very healthy 320kW of power and 700Nm of torque, powered by a new battery array with more energy density than current Nissan units.
A result of this is a claimed theoretical 600km driving range between charges, about 50 per cent greater than the just-revealed second generation Leaf — a much smaller car. This is the sort of range many buyers are demanding if they’re to switch to an EV.
The non-road-going concept also sports a future version of Nissan’s ‘ProPILOT’ technology suite that (apparently) offers fully autonomous operation (Level 5) when the requisite hand-over driving mode is selected.
Legislation for road cars is just about to allow Level 3 capable cars such as the new Audi A8, in forward-thinking countries such as Germany. So we’re talking pure theory for now.
Rather dramatically, the system stows the steering wheel inside the dashboard and reclines all seats when self-driving mode is engaged. When manual drive mode is selected, the vehicle returns the wheel and seats to their original position, transferring control back to the driver.
Nissan also thinks the IMx can “contribute to the social infrastructure like no other vehicle before it”.
How’s that? For one, after transporting its owner to the airport, the IMx could park itself in a spot where it can connect to the local grid and act as a mini power plant, feeding electricity back in. Nissan has promoted vehicle-to-building directional charging for a while.
It’s not just the tech in the IMx that’s bold for the brand. The design polarises too, aiming to show what EV packaging and autonomous tech may do for car design in the mid-term future.
“Until now, vehicles have been designed with a clear differentiation between exterior and interior,” Nissan says. “But this purpose-based differentiation is likely to change with the arrival of fully autonomous vehicles.”
Nissan says its designers sought to redefine the interior space of the IMx by making the floor flat, and the overall feel clean and minimalist.
“The IMx concept vehicle’s interior adheres to the basic concept of space that can be found in a traditional Japanese house, suggesting a sense of openness,” the company claims.
Most key data is shown on a panoramic OLED instrument panel, while a separate wood grain-patterned display positioned below the instrument panel and wrapping around the interior door trims, gives occupants a sense of the outside like a paper screen might.
Intriguingly, artificial intelligence also enables the driver to control the instrument panel with eye movements and hand gestures.
The laser-etched diagonal pattern on the seats is called ‘katanagare’, while the head rest – patterned like a kumiki (Japanese interlocking wood puzzle) – is made from silicon-material cushioning and has a 3D-printed frame.
The company also talks about the Japanese concepts of ‘ma’, a sense of space and time, and ‘wa' (harmony), expressing the coexistence of two seemingly contradictory concepts – “stillness” and “motion.” This is a press release after all…
Externally, beyond the familiar ‘V-motion’ grille, a distinct character line rises and flows to the bonnet and rear end. The car has an aerodynamic shape, wedged angular lighting and folded sheetmetal that reminds on of origami.
The ‘vermillion accent’ colour, contrasting vividly with the pearl white body, is apparently inspired by ‘uramasari’, which describes “the beauty and extravagance found on the inside of traditional Japanese kimonos”. Sure...
“The IMx zero-emission crossover concept vehicle embodies the future of Nissan Intelligent Mobility,” said Nissan’s executive vice president for global marketing and sales of zero-emission vehicles and the battery business, Daniele Schillaci.
“Through Nissan Intelligent Mobility, Nissan is committed to changing the way people and cars communicate, as well as how cars interact with society in the near future and beyond.”