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Nissan calls this “the one and only zero-emissions SUV”, which may be putting it a little strongly, but the TeRRa concept, which will make its world debut at the Paris motor show on 27 September, certainly combines Nissan's ability to deliver eye-catching crossovers such as the Qashqai and Murano with its experience in developing fuel-cell cars.
The TeRRa, it says, is equally in its element off-road in the wild or gliding silently through an urban setting.
Nissan chief creative officer Shiro Nakamura said: “You have the big tyres, high belt-line, thick pillars and thin side windows of the typical SUV, but with a slender waist between pronounced fenders.
“Sharp corners, short overhangs and sculptured lamps contribute to a clean look and a flat body pan in an eye-catching colour, protecting the full length of the underside, completes the modern tough image.”
The interior trim uses layered blond wood and coloured acrylic.
The dashboard is a beechwood-acrylic with a steering and instrument console gently tapering out toward the driver, while a metal frame rings the cabin at shoulder height to give the occupants a feeling of security.
The TeRRa's instrument panel is actually an electronic tablet that's also an 'intelligent key'. You dock it when you get in and it switches the car on, then displays the speedometer and other important driving information - but the driver can easily toggle to entertainment, communications, navigation and other displays.
When you undock it, the car switches off.
But it still provides all the functions we expect from a tablet, plus it stays in touch with the car, so you can remotely check the fuel level or start the aircon before you get in.
The driver sits ‘front and almost centre’ in an unusual diagonal seating layout that places rear passengers over the shoulders of those in front, rather than directly behind, giving everybody a view ahead.
The seats have a hexagonal motif that's echoed elsewhere in the design, and the passenger seats fold completely flat into the floor (thanks to the compact fuel-cell drive train) so the TeRRa can easily carry mountain bikes or flat-pack Scandinavian furniture.
Although the TeRRa is purely a concept, it is a fully-functional runner.
It was built to prove that the drivetrain (a) works and (b) fits into the very Eurocentric body styling.
Powering the front wheels there's an off-the-shelf Nissan Leaf electric motor and transmission, and inside each rear wheel there's a disc-shaped electric motor, as used in the Mitsubishi MiEV and three generations of Nissan Pivo citycar concepts.
Because the rear wheels don't need drive shafts, there's no transmission tunnel and the underbody bash plate is also completely flat.
Under the bonnet is the latest version of Nissan's own fuel-cell stack, a flat compact unit with a power density of 2.5kW/L. It's the latest in a series of Nissan fuel cells since 1996 and Nissan says it costs just one sixth as much as the previous version, first tested in 2005, because the need for expensive precious metals has been slashed to one-quarter of the previous level.
Perhaps Nissan's most telling statement, however , is that the TeRRa shows it's ready to mass-produce fuel-cell electric vehicles as soon as hydrogen becomes widely available.