A brilliant sporting EV – that Nissan won’t build
BladeGlider. Since Nissan debuted this electric prototype sports car at the Tokyo motor show in 2013, quite a few people have ridden in it since the, but not many have managed to get behind the wheel.
We succeeded in doing just that at the recent Goodwood Festival of Speed, gliding around among all the bellowing V8s and V12s.
It was incredible. It felt utterly contemporary and just right for 2017.
Then, smiling apologetically, the Nissan man told us that it wasn’t going to be built. “Maybe in 10 or 15 years, but not now. We wanted to demonstrate to enthusiasts that EVs are the answer to driving enjoyment. We just want you to see and feel the potential.”
It’s the very definition of frustration. This arrow-shaped car is built for fun, pure and simple. That front/rear track width difference gives it good aerodynamics, and some surprisingly cool rear-wheel-drive cornering traits, of which more later.
Nissan Bladeglider prototype
Price: circa £30,000
Engine: 200kW battery, 2 x 130kW motors
Transmission: N/A, rear-wheel-drive
0-62mph: Under 5.0sec (est)
Top speed: 115mph
CO2 emissions: N/A
The drama starts on the approach to the car with those massive waist-height dihedral doors, hinged at the rear. Textured black fabric seats are coated with epoxy resin to add grip, and there are green or orange cockpit accents to lift the cockpit ambience.
The central Macca F1-style driver’s seat gets you thinking you might be in a 2025 IndyCar race. At first it seems odd to be driving with someone’s legs visible on your left-hand side (that’ll be the Nissan instructor), but it’s all part of the appealing freakiness of the BladeGlider experience.
All the main controls are on the steering wheel. Beside the indicator buttons you’ve got two manettino-style switches, one to select the drive mode and one to vary the traction control. Two paddles modulate the amount of regenerative braking, which even in its maximum setting isn’t Tesla-extreme: sports car braking needs to be through the pedal, and that’s how it is here.
A digi screen behind the wheel shows speed, battery charge, regeneration mode and torque mapping.
Once you’re out on the track, it’s hard not to fall head-over-heels in love with this car. Performance motoring in an open-canopied EV has a gliding feel about it, so the name is well chosen. Speed is monitored not by the roar of revs but by a higher degree of whirr and wind noise.
The lack of gear changes might upset diehard sports car enthusiasts, but the chassis feedback won’t disappoint. Nissan teamed up with Williams Advanced Engineering for this prototype, so it knocks the Leaf into a cocked hat for handling dynamism. All-round double wishbone suspension delivers an engaging and accurate drive. Selecting one of the three torque settings – off, agile or drift mode – affects the degree of rear-end swing or tuck-in. If understeer is detected, a positive torque vectoring system neutralises it by pushing more torque through to the outside wheel. Feeling shorter than it looks, the BladeGlider serves up a linear and (as far as we could tell) foolproof drive.
With Volvo just announcing that all its cars will be at least partly powered by batteries by 2019, it seems odd that Nissan thinks the world isn’t ready for a £30k electric sports car.
Before Andy Palmer took over as CEO of Aston, he ran Nissan UK. Quite a while back he called the BladeGlider the “anti-establishment electric sports car”, a good summation of something that makes you wonder why you’d bother with a dull Tesla, Nissan, Hyundai or Toyota EV. Come on Nissan, build it.