Nissan Leaf gets a fancy brother: The Infiniti LE
By C.C. Weiss
April 6, 2012
The first complaint about current mainstream electric vehicle options is that they don't offer enough range. The second is that they only come in small and, some might say, unattractive packages like the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-Miev. Infiniti may not have solved the former problem, but it's done its best to solve the latter with the LE concept. The concept gives the Nissan Leaf a sportier, more upscale brother.
Infiniti has shown us a few takes on sporty green cars in the Essence and E-Merge, but it is a lot more serious about this one. In debuting the model at this week's New York Auto Show, Infiniti said that this is a "production intent" concept and will be on the market within two years. The company also said its "near similar form" to the production model, so it's clear this isn't just a fanciful EV concept designed to attract show goers to Infiniti's booth.
In designing the LE, Infiniti set out to make an Infiniti that was electric, not an electric car with an Infiniti label. Key toward that goal was showing that "zero emission does not have to mean small." Rather than a small hatchback, Infiniti made a proper, fastback-style sedan that's about the same length as its current G Sedan. From that basic principle, Infiniti added signature design cues like the double-arch grille and crescent-cut rear pillar. It sculpted a defined belt line that provides a sense of speed and power. The LE may not be nearly as dramatic as the Essence or E-merge, but it's definitely lighter on the eyes than a Leaf.
While it hasn't solved the limited range dilemma, Infiniti has done its best to get every mile by keeping the LE as aerodynamic as possible. Specific equipment used for the goal includes the high rear deck, aero-treated wheels, aero rear diffuser, aero fin front spoiler and aero side fin spoilers. The car's drag coefficient is 0.25.
Infiniti hasn't given all the details on the car's powertrain, but it's most certainly adapted from the Nissan Leaf. The electric motor puts out 240 lb-ft of torque and provides "impressive EV acceleration." The 24 kWh lithium-ion battery can be recharged by way of standard outlet, DC fast charging and Nissan's upcoming wireless charging pad.
Inside, the next-generation Infiniti Connection system keeps drivers in touch with the outside world. The system is controlled by way of twin-screen display, which delivers driver-centric information like navigation and points-of-interest search. The system also helps the driver in finding charging stations, syncing his calendar and pre-heating or pre-cooling the vehicle.
The battery pack is located under the passenger compartment floor, opening up the interior for comfort. Soft "Infiniti EV Blue" LED lighting flows from front to back. The leather-trimmed seats have sued and mesh fabric.
We're guessing the production version will lose the icy, space-age-y silver paint job and gratuitous blue LED lighting, but Infiniti Americas Vice President Ben Poore said that it will maintain the "zero emission powertrain, advanced telematics, cutting-edge design, advanced connected services and premium appointments" of the concept. It should be a nice addition to the EV market.
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