Nissan designers had several goals in mind when they sat down and put pen to paper to design the new Nissan LEAF electric car. Nissan had no intention of following others in designing a radical car that would only appeal to EV enthusiasts. Instead they wanted to focus on designing a car that was immediately identifiable as an EV, yet subtle enough to appeal to everyone.
While designing the LEAF, Nissan had several hurdles they encountered along the way. EVs by their very nature, tend to be designed with the main goal of aerodynamic efficiency. The GM EV1 is a prime example of aerodynamics driving design. This vehicle has a low cd, but lacks widespread appeal, or as designers would say, the design was polarizing creating a love it hate it relationship. Nissan had no intention of designing a vehicle that few would like. The LEAF is after all considered to be one the first EVs for every family.
Instead Nissan needed a distinct design, but could not eliminate the need for an aerodynamic vehicle. Creating an attractive vehicle that meets aerodynamic requirements is no small feat.
Nissan designed the vehicle as a familiar looking five door car rather than following the fastback styling of hybrids such as the Prius or the Insight. Though unique, the LEAF's hatchback layout is also well accepted in most places across the globe.
According to Nissan's chief creative officer Shiro Nakamura, "From the beginning, we did not want to make the car very strange, because one of the perceptions of the EV is that people think EVs are toys, or cheap...that you cannot drive high-speed, that EV means not real car. But the car we have is a real car- you can drive it at 140 km, you can sit four or five passengers comfortably."
The design appears successful as the upright stance affords a spacious interior with plenty of room for at least four people. Aerodynamics were not overlooked though as the LEAF has a smooth underbody, a unique headlight design that manages airflow around the front of the vehicle and a smooth front end with a unique logo that hides the charging port.
The rear wheel arches manage airflow in a manner similar to that of the enclosed wheel housings of an EV1, but manages to do so in a manner that is more acceptable to the general buying public.
The LEAF's design is all about widespread appeal. Some may argue against its looks, some may love its looks, but it really becomes a matter of personal taste rather than a question of whether or not you are willing to drive a hideous EV to make the statement about your concerns for the environment.