Leaf Morphs into Luxury Sedan
Shortly after Nissan unveiled its all-electric Leaf, the automaker made it clear that its ground-breaking hatch would be just the first of several EVs to come, with one pegged specifically for Infiniti. The Infiniti LE Concept sedan, on display at the 2012 New York auto show, is a not-so-subtle look at what the first Infiniti EV will become.
The Infiniti LE Concept is powered by a 100-kW electric motor (up from 80-kW in the Leaf) rated at 134 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque, slightly stronger than the motor that motivates the Leaf (107 hp and 207 lb-ft). Unchanged from the Leaf is the LE’s 24-kWh lithium-ion battery pack mounted below the passenger compartment and driving range of about 100 miles per charge.
Infiniti says the LE will drive and behave like a proper luxury car, and given how quiet EV powertrains tend to be, interior cabin noise should be more than acceptable for a car of its class. In addition, the all-at-once torque of the LE’s electric motor and single-speed transmission should provide smooth and instant acceleration, although we’re betting it’s not going to set any speed records. When Motor Trend tested the Leaf, it recorded a 0-to-60 mph time of 9.7 seconds, and we’d expect any production LE to shave maybe a second or so off that time.
While its wheelbase is the same as the Leaf, the LE is a healthy 9.4 in. longer, at 186.4 inches — that’s just 1.5 inches shorter than an Infiniti G37 sedan. Like several Infiniti concepts lately, the LE features numerous swoopy cues, a sloping roofline, and short trunk reminiscent of Infiniti’s emerging styling direction. The LE’s design is about more than just style, as Infiniti says it has a super slippery drag coefficient of 0.25 (the Leaf is 0.29), helping to improve the EV’s range. Concept style cues include aerodynamic 19-inch wheels and trick LED lighting cues like the blue illumination for the car’s underbody. The charging port is hidden beneath the Infiniti logo in the front grille as in the Leaf.
One of the LE’s signature features is an inductive wireless charging unit located under the car’s rear diffuser that Nissan recently previewed as a potential future for EV charging. By simply parking the LE over a wireless charge point that can be installed in a garage floor, the car can be charged without plugging the vehicle into an outlet. The LE concept also has a self-park system that automatically positions the car above the charge point. Using the electric power steering and 360-degree Around View camera, Infiniti says the LE’s Intelligent Park Assist can drive itself toward the charger as soon as the car enters a parking garage.
The LE Concept’s interior is, like most concept vehicles, a mix of present and future. Numerous luxury touches include seats and door trim reportedly inspired by the collars of Japanese kimonos, as well as mesh and leather seating swathed in a purple/white combo. Blue LEDs similar to the underbody cues illuminate the cabin, and the dashboard is dominated by pair of large touch-screen interfaces that allow occupants to easily find charging stations, calculate driving range, and more. The transmission selector is a palm-shaped sculpted knob similar to the unit in the Leaf.
Of course, there is plenty on the LE Concept that won’t make it to production, but expect to see a car similar in scope to the LE within the next two years, possibly with an even more powerful motor and battery pack if Nissan is able to further develop its EV tech in time for launch.