Infiniti LE electric concept car (2012) first pictures

Published: 10 April 2012

Hot on the heels of the Emerg-e sports car concept showcased at the 2012 Geneva motor show, Infiniti has graced the New York event with a family man’s EV: the LE Concept.

It’s a Nissan Leaf dolled up in Infiniti finery, and points to the production car coming in the next couple of years.

I thought electric cars were all city runabouts. What’s the idea behind the Infiniti LE?

Infiniti proudly claim the LE concept has been designed as ‘a pure Infiniti, rather than an EV with luxury appointments.’ What does that equate to when you’ve cut through the marketing gloss? Essentially, what we have here is a 5-series-sized saloon powered by underfloor lithium-ion batteries, giving a 240lb ft output.

That’s around 40lb ft less than a 520d can muster, but of course the LE produces twist from 0rpm, and in reverential near silence.

Eking the optimum possible efficiency from the 24kWh powerplant is the name of the game with the LE, just as it is with the mass-market Leaf elsewhere in Nissan’s arsenal. The sharply styled body isn’t just for showgoers’ viewing pleasure: its rear diffuser and ‘aero side fin’ spoilers help towards a slippery drag coefficient of just 0.25, says Infiniti.

Even the alloy wheels are designed to disturb the air as little as possible.

What can I expect inside? More pie-in-the-sky concept artistry?

Actually, you might be pleasantly surprised to find a fairly conventional cabin in the Infiniti LE concept car. Familiar Infiniti design cues flow around a digital display monitoring potential range and a charging station database in case you get caught short.

Meanwhile on the underside, the LE gets a wireless car charging, via a garage mounted mat that the car can steer itself onto with precision alignment. It’s clever stuff, but crucially, nothing is conjured from a designer’s fantasy. Infiniti says it is confident it can bring the LE to production in just two years, without sacrificing the innovation.

Very impressive, but what about when it arrives in the real world?

Good point, and that’s exactly the obstacle Infiniti – and every other EV-obsessed manufacturer – has to contend with. Sales have been slow on both sides of the Atlantic as consumers struggle to resolve doubts over battery range and a lack of charging infrastructure, despite tempting government grants on the sticker price.

If Infiniti can bring the LE to market by 2014, an awful lot of faith (and money) needs to be invested in electric vehicles if their effort is to be worthwhile.

By Ollie Kew

Former road tester and staff writer of this parish