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First test run


When Nissan asked whether wefd like to have a closer look at their electric Pivo concept, first seen at the recent Tokyo Motor Show, they didnft have to twist anyonefs arm. Widely recognized as one of the showfs big hits, the quirky, three-seater bubble-shaped car with its amazing rotating cabin has done away with the need to reverse.




Arriving at Nissanfs Zama design studio near Yokohama, we were led into a cavernous white room occupied by the worldfs only Pivo. Now this car might hint at a future in which state-of-the-art by-wire technology is common fare, but sitting there by itself in that white studio, the Pivo eerily resembled the white space pod in Stanley Kubrickfs 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Nissan are quick to tell us that no movie vehicle influenced their conceptfs design, but we canft help seeing a likeness. That impression was further reinforced from the cockpit too. Looking out over the control panel through its spherical cabin, you could almost hear astronaut Dave Bowman asking the rogue computer Hal 9000 to gOpen the pod bay doors Hal.h

Luckily Nissan opened their doors and let us in for an exclusive but very brief test drive. So what is the Pivo?



According to Pivo project leader, Masayoshi Yamaguchi, the car is an innovative and fun way to show off Nissanfs latest technology. gIf youfre going to put your latest by-wire and electric car technology in a concept you donft just put it in a sedan or even a coupe. It must stand out. Thatfs why we decided on this shape. We found it was a huge hit with women around the world.h And speaking of women, Yamaguchi added that one other aspect of the car that helped to lift its interest level among women was its rotating cabin. gThat means you donft have to reverse anymore, and many women loved that idea. They told us openly!h

So that was one of the first things we tried. On the centre console, drivers have a choice of rotating the Pivo 90 or 180 degrees. Press the 180 degree button and the cabin spins effortlessly, slowing down at around 160 degrees and stopping without a jolt. The cabin itself is more spacious than it looks from the outside. Even at 190cms tall, I still had plenty of headroom. Employing a centrally-mounted driverfs seat, reminiscent of the McLaren F1fs cockpit, one passenger can sit on each side of the driver in slightly cramped comfort. Take the U-shaped steering wheel, flick the drive lever into forward mode, depress the accelerator and away you go. Itfs all smooth and quiet, just like that g2001h pod maneuvering through space. Whatever you do in this car, everything is virtually silent apart from a little tyre noise and the hint of a motor whirring in the background. Four wheel double wishbone suspension has been fitted with literally no vertical stroke and no camber geometry, so high speed is not an option right now. In fact Yamaguchi says the fastest hefs driven in the car is 25km/h. gOn paper, it will do around 100km/h, but then wefd have to change the suspension setup to cater for the higher speeds.h

Generating propulsion for the Pivo are compact lithium-ion batteries which are spread across the platform of the car and two Super Motors, one producing torque on each axle. This allows even distribution of drive to all four wheels, and enables the Pivo to turn on its own radius. But the most impressive feature of the car, apart from its shape, is the by wire setup. It boasts throttle by wire, shift by wire, brake by wire and steering by wire. While other by wire technologies are already in use, Yamaguchi tells us that itfs the steering-by-wire that is as new and challenging as it is sticky with lawmakers. gPeople get concerned when you donft have a steering column.h While we were not actually permitted to steer the car as such, driver Yamaguchi confirmed that the by-wire steering is as direct and weighted as conventional steering columns.



But while Yamaguchi and his team are happy with the carfs performance, they are not satisfied with its weight and range. Weighing considerably more than a Micra, Nissan says its target weight is around 800kgs. gAnd we must extend the carfs running time. One hour is too short,h concluded Yamaguchi.

To ensure that the thick A-pillars donft obscure

forward visibility, designers have come up with clever monitors which show occupants, in real time, what is happening in the blind spots. The whole Pivo experience is quite surreal. With each operation you attempt, the Pivo feels less like a car, and more like a prototype inter-planetary space transport.

So are we going to see lots of little Pivofs on the roads soon? Nissanfs head of design, Shiro Nakamura, doesnft think so. gThis may be one future for the Micra in around 10 years time. Who knows?h Whatever the result, the company has already had suggestions that the Pivo could go into service straight away as an official pro-golf tournament sponsor car. I can see it now. Tiger Woods rolling up to the 18th tee in his Pivo. Now that would be the ultimate in product placement, and as surreal as a Pivo in a white room at that.




Suzuki Twin hybrid (??)

1st Opinion

The Pivo is an outrageous and contagious way to showcase Nissanfs latest by-wire technology. Its spherical shape means you canft ignore it. In fact its bubble-shaped exterior draws you towards it like anyone is drawn towards something they are seeing for the first time. Its electric operation is smooth and quiet, and surprisingly easy to drive and maneuver. Expect to see some of the carfs systems applied to production cars soon, but donft expect to see the Pivo on the road any time soon.


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