Nissan offers glimpse of electric urban commuter future with IMk concept
Earlier this year, Nissan announced a significant upgrade to its popular Leaf electric car that added a 40 percent increase to its per charge range. Now the company is looking to the future with a concept urban runabout EV named the IMk.
Nissan says that the compact battery-electric city car offers some clues on what future designs from the company might look like. "As a small EV for a new era, the Nissan IMk is designed to be at home in sophisticated cityscapes as much as in traditional Japanese towns," said Satoru Tai, executive design director at Nissan. "The IMk fuses a modern, clean look, driven by its Japanese heritage, with cutting-edge EV technology. Unconstrained by conventional concepts of the kei car segment, its design is interwoven with Japanese culture. It’s a luxury small EV that I hope a lot of customers are going to drive."
These Japanese design themes manifest themselves in the color scheme selected for the concept – a reddish copper meant as a favorable nod in the direction of artisans who worked with copper. The lines of the bumper, wheels, tires, windows, taillights, roof and spoiler are said to be inspired by the patterns of a thin twine made from rice paper called mizuhiki. And where the grille would be situated on a gas-engined vehicle, Nissan's designers have installed a new V-motion shield.
Inside, the IMk has a relaxed lounge-like feel, with bench seating and light coloring for the dash (which has minimal physical controls) and doors. Hidden lighting, dark carpeting, tasteful use of wood throughout and copper-colored accenting to the instrument panel, doors and steering wheel add a luxury feel to the cabin.
A bezel-free, touch-enabled prism display panel shows trip info and navigation aids, and the designers have included some pleasant touches such as birds flying across the screen when swiped and interior lighting changing color to match what's shown onscreen. And occupants can take advantage of free Wi-Fi connectivity.
"We could have kept all the surfaces inside the IMk’s cabin flat, which would have equated to more physical space," explained Tai. "But if we did that, we would have lost some of its beauty, and we didn’t want to go that route. The IMk was never about being roomier than a traditional small car. It was about being an upscale, stylish partner that gives occupants a chic, elegant space to enjoy."
Drivers can set up personal profiles via a smartphone – including such things as identity authentication, seat position, preferred lighting and climate control – and apply preferences before getting into the vehicle. The IMk can advise on optimum departure times based on local route and traffic information, and once you're off on your trip, sensors around the vehicle will combine data with info from the cloud to inform the driver of potential problems ahead. There's even a friendly avatar that can appear to give useful tips and guidance.
Naturally, given its future focus, the IMk is ready for the autonomous road ahead. ProPilot driver assist technologies include remote valet parking that looks for an open parking space on its own and is summoned by tapping a button in a companion app, and there's support for navigated highway driving with "hands-off" single-lane capabilities too.
No performance specs have been revealed at this point, though Nissan does say that the IMk's "electric motor delivers excellent acceleration and a high level of responsiveness that’s effective in stop-and-go traffic and even on steep slopes." Finally, the vehicle can share its battery charge when at home during peak usage hours using Nissan's Energy Share technology.
"The IMk concept provides a glimpse of the new direction of Nissan Intelligent Mobility as technology evolves toward electrification and connectivity," said Nissan's Asako Hoshino.
The IMk is due to make its trade show debut at the 46th Tokyo Motor Show later this month. The video below has more.