October 15, 2007 One of the challenges in writing stories for an emerging technology magazine is to avoid continuously using the word ingenious, but the NV200 to be shown by Nissan at the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show is exactly that. The shell of a vehicle is by necessity an exoskeleton, which means that access to van-like vehicles is typically from the inside, but this new design takes a totally different approach. Combining a mobile office and van in one unique package, designers have incorporated a sliding removable pod that makes the NV200 one out of the box – literally – and although inspired by the very specific requirements of one customer, the basic concept has serious potential for all manner of different applications.
“A commercial vehicle has a specific job to perform, but that’s no reason to design a purely rational vehicle with no warmth. In NV200, function becomes the aesthetic. NV200 is a highly efficient tool but one with a human touch,” said Shiro Nakamura, senior vice president and chief creative officer at Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.
At a glance:
-Mobile office and van in one unique package
-Sliding cargo ‘pod’ extends to reveal…
- … IT workspace and living quarters
The joint design team from Japan and the UK has developed what is described as a radical, futuristic, but practical new concept inspired by the requirements of professional diver, marine biologist and underwater photographer Dr Alex Mustard. This entails that the vehicle design cater for all the requirements of a full-blown underwater photography expedition – everything from underwater cameras, lights, scuba gear, computer equipment and mobile communication equipment to dry clothes, food and somewhere to sleep - even an underwater scooter for trips beneath the surface.
The result is the NV200. From the outside, the long 2820mm wheelbase and 1840mm high with a cab-forward design are apparent, along with a wraparound grille and rising side windows that accentuate a high waistline and underline the van’s load carrying ability.
Exterior aside, the defining feature is the patented sliding cargo pod which is divided into a number of separate areas into which different pieces of diving and photographic equipment can be stored. The pod slides out rear-wards to allow easy access to the storage zones and sits on integrated ‘drop-down’ legs when fully extended.
As well as housing diving gear in separate ‘wet’ lockers, the pod holds four air tanks and the underwater scooter. Lockable roller blinds protect the contents, while valuable camera equipment can be accessed either from within NV200 or from outside the pod.
As the pod is withdrawn from the van, the area left behind is transformed into a mobile office and IT dock. A computer table drops down from the side of the van to reveal two LCD screens and the front passenger seat swivels backwards on a single curved rail to face the table.
Everything is designed with its practical application in mind - a shockproof briefcase made from rugged ribbed plastic houses a laptop, moveable storage boxes are mounted in all three doors and natural light for the work surface comes from a small side window and a large domed skylight in the roof of the van. In tropical climates, the skylight can be diffused to prevent a build up of heat within the interior.
The end of the pod facing the inside of the van – it forms a bulkhead behind the front seats when the pod is not deployed – has hanging space for dry clothes. It also houses a small refrigerator, drop down sink unit and first aid kit. NV200’s tanks hold enough water to supply a shower, fitted on the outside of the pod, to allow diving equipment to be washed after use. A two-man tent is housed at the base of the B-pillar behind the driver’s door, while fillers for fuel and water are housed within the opposite B-pillar.
Power for the computer, shower, ’fridge and other electrical fixtures comes from a small generator housed within the van. This, in turn, is charged by solar panels situated on the roof of the pod that line up beneath the skylight so that they generate power even when the pod is not deployed.
The driver and passenger doors open conventionally, while access to the workspace is via a single sliding door on the passenger side.
Large open storage areas run the width of the van beneath the instrument panel and control cluster. Sensors within the storage zones detect movement and illuminate the entire area as soon as a hand or an object is placed in or near the shelves.
A small color TV screen replaces the central rear-view mirror with a rear-facing camera projecting the view behind the van to the screen at all times.
The entire design takes cues from underwater themes - above the front seats is a glass panel incorporating a wave pattern that bathes the interior in a diffused light and on either side of the panel are two forward-facing glazed holders into which high-powered professional underwater torches can be slotted to provide a floodlit area ahead of NV200.
The designers in the UK have also thrown in a small visual joke. Opening the sliding door reveals the legend ‘Mind The Gap’ on the step up into the work area… a reference familiar to anyone using London’s Tube network.
Although the NV200 has been designed to suit the specific needs of one user, the principle behind the concept has wide ranging potential. The team has identified mobile libraries, greengrocery stores, florists and even field ambulances among possible users of the pod.
“Although NV200 might, at first glance, appear to be a flight of fancy, the more you study its potential the more you realise it is an entirely practical and feasible project,” says Nakamura.
And the verdict from Dr Mustard, the man around whom the concept was created?
“Perfect… just perfect. It even answers needs I hadn’t realized that I had. I only have one question: when will NV200 be put into production?” he says.