If concept cars on the show circuit offer any hint about the sorts of cars we will be driving in the future, all electric SUV type vehicles will soon litter the streets of the world and most of them will be aimed at wealthy buyers seeking a premium experience surround by enough pomp and circumstance to satisfy the quest for self adulation typical of a certain sitting president.
Nissan Electric “Not An SUV”
This “I’m a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n roll” approach moves the whole SUV craze from the sublime to the ridiculous. Where once a sport utility was a rugged go anywhere, do anything vehicle that could leap tall buildings in a single bound, in today’s world it is simply an ordinary vehicle with a high roof line and an elevated seating position. Think of it like a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry with a lifted suspension.
The Nissan IMs couldn’t be further from the roots of the SUV revolution. Its mission is to create a sybaritic experience that cocoons the driver and one lucky rear seat passenger in splendid isolation from the world outside.
“Advances in electric vehicle technology and autonomous driving have allowed our designers to break free of the platform and packaging rules that constrain traditional passenger vehicles, to create a completely new type of car,” says Alfonso Albaisa, senior vice president for design at Nissan, in a press release. “The IMs explores the limits of sedan design with an approach that elevates the category in both look and functionality.”
The distinguishing features of the interior include front seats that swivel 30º toward each other and a rear seat with unique arrangement. Here’s how Nissan describes it. “Its stretched interior space, a result of the vehicle’s extended wheelbase, features unique “2+1+2″ seating architecture with pivoting front seats and a rear seat that either offers three-across seating, or, once the slim rear outboard seats are folded, an indulgent ‘Premier Seat’ in the rear center, worthy of world-class executive travel.” Somehow the whole idea of “world class executive travel” does not align well with the SUV myth.
The future of driving is clearly sitting inside a silent bubble surrounded by screens while the car drives itself. The IMs features a foldaway steering wheel and pedals for those times when autonomous driving is enabled. What that has to do with either “sport” or “utility” is anyone’s guess.
Infiniti Electric SUV Concept
On the platform at the Infiniti stand this year at NAIAS is the QX Inspiration, a battery electric SUV coming sometime before the 2024 Olympic Games. Like Nissan, Infiniti touts the battery electric skateboard design pioneered by Tesla a decade ago for making bold new use of the interior of its concept car.
Details are somewhere between slim and sketchy. In its press materials, it says the car will have a “high capacity” battery and “blistering off-the-line acceleration.” Oh, my. Be still my beating heart. According to The Verge, the interior is where the magic happens. “Right now, in concept form, Infiniti is leaving that space mostly empty, citing the ‘Japanese spatial concept of Ma,’ which has to do with the spaces between lines.” The result is a “lounge-like” experience according to Infiniti. Whoopee!
Once again, video screens are prominent in the interior. “There’s a display that stretches from pillar to pillar across the dashboard. Another screen sits embedded in the steering wheel. A third screen extends up from the center console, almost like it’s reaching out to connect with the massive dashboard display,” The Verge reports.
What do these two concepts tell us about the future of electric cars? One of two things. Either we are entering a brave new world where all of us will travel in silent solitude surrounded by 24/7 amusement devices in cars that cost a small fortune, or the world’s manufacturers have no idea how to move forward with building real electric cars that real people can afford and want to distract us with glitz while they sail blissfully toward oblivion.
If the IMs and QX Inspiration represent the best thinking available from Nissan and its luxury car division, both brands could be in real trouble as the electric car revolution moves forward.