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Nissan BladeGlider Concept: Electric Delta Wing Racer For The Road

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The claim that race car development helps road car development is getting harder to uphold these days, but there are still some engineers willing to have a go.

Look at the Nissan BladeGlider electric car concept for example, and it's hard to argue that the design and engineering hasn't been influenced by the company's Delta Wing and ZEOD RC race cars.

That may not come as a surprise though, since the man behind the BladeGlider is also the man behind the Delta Wing concept, Ben Bowlby.

And in taking cues from his race cars and applying them to an electric road-going sports car, he's entirely redefined what is possible from a fun road-going vehicle.

Most obvious is the shape, inspired by swept-wing aircraft. It isn't radical for radical's sake--the design has real practical benefits.

One of these is aerodynamics. Coefficient of drag is a big talking point these days on road cars, central to the efficiency of cars like Toyota's Prius and a medal of honor for low-drag sedans like the Mercedes-Benz CLA. But CdA is important too--that coefficient multiplied by the car's frontal area.

The frontal area of the BladeGlider is tiny, the car's top profile very visually like that of an arrow head. The front track is only one meter across--about 3.3 feet--before expanding gradually towards the rear of the car.

The unusual rear-biased layout is also great for stability, without sacrificing scalpel-sharp responses. As the race cars have proven, that front end can really dart around despite lacking the aerodynamic downforce of most racers, yet cornering forces are as high as anything in their class.

Weight (and there's not a lot of it, with carbon fiber construction) is split 30 percent to the front, 70 to the rear, but the forces acting on front and rear are in near-perfect balance--little different than if the car were a conventional sports car with a 50-50 weight distribution.

Then there's the powertrain, which is certainly different from that of most sports cars.

The battery technology is essentially that of the Nissan Leaf, albeit positioned toward the rear of the car. The drivetrain itself is different though--should a BladeGlider ever hit the road, it would do so with in-wheel motors. That would allow not just individual control of the rear wheels, but allows for better packaging--and means two passengers can join the driver on his unusual journey.

It's an impressive package, and the best thing is that Nissan might even build it--it explicitly calls the BladeGlider, "an exploratory prototype of an upcoming production vehicle".

We certainly weren't expecting that.

The BladeGlider is set to appear at the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show--check out other Tokyo debuts on our full show page.

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