Infiniti electric supercar is for real

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IOL mot pic mar7 Infiniti Emerg-E 1

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Unlike most mid-engined cars, the Emerg-E is not a wedged design.

This is the Emerg-E, star of the Infiniti stand at the Geneva motor show. It's the first mid-engined design from Nissan's luxury brand, and the first with a range-extended electric powertrain.

The Emerg-E is also the first Infiniti developed in Europe - in fact it's part of a UK government-sponsored initiative, run by the Technology Strategy board, to fast-track the arrival of low-carbon cars on British roads.

The project was led by chief creative officer Shiro Nakamura, with most of the input coming from the Nissan Design Europe in London; the show car was built by Nissan's European Technical Centre in Cranfield - and when it turned out that Lotus was also developing a range-extended electric sports car, the two companies decided it made sense to collaborate.

The show car isn't a runner, but all the technology already exists and the next step in the programme will be for Nissan to build two fully functioning demo cars.

DESIGN LANGUAGE

The shape was the work of California-based Infiniti designer Randy Rodriguez; unlike most mid-engined cars, it's not a wedged design.

IOL mot pic mar7 Infiniti Emerg-E 2

There are a surprising number of air intakes and extractors all over the body, each carefully designed in rather than added on to the original shape.

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Nakamura said: “Mid-ship cars are usually more crude - this is like silk wrapping over the wheels. Now that we have the confidence, we can go beyond front engine, rear-wheel drive proportions. Besides, designing a sports car is always fun.”

The Emerg-E has two 150kW electric motors driving the rear wheels; four inverters control the motors and direct energy recovered under braking to a lithium-ion battery mounted behind the seats. The battery can be recharged from a mains power supply (domestic or three-phase fast-charge) and provides a range of about 50km at round-town speeds.

After that the mid-mounted combustion engine starts up to act as a generator - like GM's Volt/Ampera, the wheels are always driven by the electric motors. It's an ultra-compact, three-cylinder, 1.2-litre Lotus development, designed to run in a narrow operating range of 1500-4000rpm and producing 35kW at only 3500rpm.

THE LIGHT STUFF

Lotus also helped with the extruded-aluminium chassis, which has racing-spec double-wishbone suspension all round, also in aluminium. The carbon-fibre body panels were made for the car by Lola, and the whole car weighs only 1600kg - which is impressive for a battery car with 300kW on tap.

The Emerg-E is strictly a two-seater, with its cockpit clearly oriented around the driver. A double-wave dashboard and lightweight, 'floating' carbon-fibre centre console finished in dark chrome contrast with body-hugging sports seats trimmed with alcantara bolsters and English leather centre panels .

IOL mot pic mar7 Infiniti Emerg-E 3

When you switch on, bursts of light streak around the cabin to provide live confirmation that the Emerg-E is ready to go.

Even the floor is special, made from an architectural material called Sefar, a fine metallic mesh that allows light to shine through in a translucent glow.

Senior colour designer Gail Patrick said: “It's the first time this material has been used in an automotive application. It adds depth and allure, while underlining the car fact that this car is electrically propelled.”

But the most dramatic detail appears when you switch on, as bursts of light streak around the cabin from the ignition to the floating centre console and the silhouettes of the seats, providing confirmation that the Emerg-E is ready to go - a high-tech alternative to the roar of an engine. After three seconds the lighting fades out, leaving you free to concentrate on driving.

Exotic though all this sounds, Nakamura emphasised that “this is not a show car that goes wild - it's important to be realistic and believable.

“It's a car you'd design for yourself.”

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