Nissan PIVO: The Perfect eMobility Device?


Sitting quietly in a glass-walled stand reminiscent of a zoo enclosure, alone, Nissan's PIVO 3 made its European debut at the Paris Motor Show late last month having been unveiled for the first time at the Tokyo Motor Show nearly a year ago. Comprehensively overshadowed by the haughty TeRRA SUV concept just a stone's throw away, the third generation all-electric electric PIVO seemed appropriately inconspicuous – it is, after all, to be envisaged in constricted urban environs – yet it is a car of potential significance that the TeRRA could not hope to match.

Nissan design chief Shiro Nakamura (L) with Takashi Murakami and the PIVO

The latest PIVO looks rather good, and this is due in no small part to it bearing very, very little resemblance to the original 2005 concept (although that did feature an ingenious, but slightly mad, fully rotational cabin). Looking back now, the whole fan-fair surrounding the original PIVO bordered on lunacy – the launch event incorporated a futuristic vegetable garden as well as “Pivo-chan”, a fictional character dreamt up by Takashi Murakami and based on the car's “inspiring image”. Clearly, the PIVO philosophy was about more than a 'car'. (Not least because Nissan believed that a driver in a positive frame of mind is less likely to crash, and tried to design the PIVO to generate feelings of affection).

Two aspects of the PIVO have remained unchanged throughout its trio of iterations – the McLaren-style three-seat layout and an electric powertrain. PIVO 2, which came along in 2007, looked fresh in comparison to the original, which looked ten years old even at its launch. The purple example at the Tokyo Motor Show capitalised on Shiro Nakamura's desire to locate the battery as low as possible and incorporate in-wheel motors. Lithium-ion battery technology, the development of which had been accelerated by the popularity of mobile phones (particularly in Japan), also allowed Nissan's designers to separate the cabin from platform, which meant freedom – a precious commodity to those of Nakamura's ilk, even if only in theory. Improved interior space was matched by wheels that could rotate independently, making parking absurdly easy. You're probably now starting to wonder how many PIVO concepts we'll have to endure before Nissan do the decent thing and build a production interpretation. Nobody really knows, except possibly Nissan themselves.

PIVO 2 at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show 

The answer, however, may well be 'fewer than you think'. The PIVO 3 has been designed with a focus on real-world technologies, and from the specification sheet there's nothing to suggest that this car can't result in “large-scale, zero emissions emobility” as Nissan put it. Aimed at singles and couples, the '3' has lost the fully rotational cabin, which is perhaps a necessary sacrifice in the pursuit of feasibility, but has retained the in-wheel motors that endow it with a faintly incredible turning circle of four metres - within the length of a Mazda MX-5, in other words. The PIVO can also be summoned and manoeuvred from your smartphone, which is presumably easier said than done.

As mentioned, the PIVO 3 is an attractive car, more chiselled than its ovoid predecessors and a grateful recipient of a seemingly Honda EV-STER-inspired grill/light integrated front graphic, which is odd considering that the two cars debuted at the same show. Large door openings and exaggerated front haunches give the PIVO a 'hammerhead' but streamlined stance. Said door openings are created by doors that open flat (think Ford's new B-Max), which is another city-optimised design deature.

The 3 also feeds stored power back into the grid when connected and Nissan believe that, when (and not 'if', they say) EVs represent a larger proportion of cars on the road, cars like the PIVO 3 “could help balance electric power supply and demand”. It's estimated that by 2020 1-2% of all vehicles will use electric propulsion, so it could be a while until we see a production PIVO, but when it does arrive, Nissan have no excuses for anything short of perfection.

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