When Nissan unveiled a bevy of EV concepts last year, most of our attention was focused on the nifty pickup truck that led the pack. But amidst the futuristic turmoil was a show car dubbed the chill-out concept. Sharing its CMF-EV architecture and twin-engine, all-wheel-drive setup with the upcoming Nissan Ariya SUV, it was arguably the most production-ready concept of the bunch. Well, we’ve stumbled upon evidence that the chill-out is going into production as… something, as evidenced by patent images of a longer, less show-car-y version of the concept, published in the European patent database at the end of May .
We’re pretty confident that this compact, low-top crossover will be the next Leaf, and here’s why: The Leaf is the original electric car for everyone, the first affordable and mainstream electric car. Since its debut in 2011, however, it has seen competitors match and later surpass its range and appeal.
Take the Leaf’s body style, for example: even in its newest guise, the Nissan takes on the form of a beat-up economy hatchback. That format made sense back when every cheap EV was some sort of compact, soulless thing built primarily to meet regulatory requirements — so-called “compliance cars” — but it’s not in its element today for a variety of reasons . Customers have largely evolved from cars in general, electric or otherwise, to crossovers, SUVs, and trucks. And thanks to Tesla’s success in the market and the types of cars it offers, EV buyers now expect style and performance as they drive past gas stations.
All of this means that the next Nissan Leaf will likely rise into the crossover class in the same way that the original Bolt Tall hatchback matured into the Bolt EUV crossover. The chill out and now this patented production vehicle seems to be the perfect vessel for this transformation. Check out similar entry-level EVs from the competition: Hyundai’s Ioniq 5, Kia’s EV6, and the Ford Mustang Mach-E. These are all compact to mid-size EV SUVs with a flash and some dash. The vehicle in these patent images certainly brings the flash: It shares its curved roofline with the chill-out concept, sports a pointed nose and has an attractively clipped rear end. The concept car’s big wheels are replaced here with normal-looking rolling stock, albeit with an interestingly narrow cross-section like the show car.
Some of the details are so close to the show cars that we wouldn’t be surprised if this were simply a patent for the concept, although it would be interesting for Nissan to file a patent for the design five months after its original debut. In our eyes, the patented design has a slightly longer tail (more rear overhang behind the rear wheels) and a squarer hood. The cool taillights are carried over, which look like LED strips glowing from a largely blacked-out panel; In fact, the design of these lighting elements is reminiscent of that of the new Z sports car, adding an element of production credibility to them. It could be that the greenhouse has more realistic proportions as well.
Of course, the patent says nothing about the interior of the car, which according to the concept was a lounge without a steering wheel. Expect this car to have a steering wheel, pedals and a relatively standard dashboard. Underneath, as in the chill-out concept, Nissan’s Ariya bones will allow for front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configurations, not to mention more range and performance than the current Leaf (up to 226 miles and 214 hp). While the show car had a solid-state battery, we doubt Nissan will have a production-ready battery in time (or cost-effectively enough) to debut in the next Leaf.
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