Haven’t we seen this weird Pivo before?
We have. Two years ago, Nissan showed the first Pivo, an urban car that features some clever tech specially designed for the challenges of the city jungle. Pivo 2 takes the concept on a stage, improving battery technology and the electric engines, and adding a weird robot interface. Now you have a robot as travelling companion. Part of his job is to cheer you up. Nissan says a happy driver is a safer driver.
OK so let’s start with the clever urban stuff
Pivo 2 has four totally independent wheels that swivel like a supermarket trolley, all powered by individual electric engines. The ‘Metamo’ system allows for the wheelbase and track to be altered, and for the wheels to swivel. The passenger bubble cell also turns through 360 degrees. So you don’t need to reverse park into tight spots: spin the cabin 90 degrees and drive the car in sideways, crab-like. Irrespective of the car’s direction, the driver always faces forwards. It’s clever and greatly simplifies parking.
But it must be pretty terrible at speed, surely?
Apparently not. Suspension and bodywork geometry changes improve braking, accelerating and cornering performance. When accelerating the rear track grows and the front track narrows. Vice versa when braking or decelerating. Plus the front and rear track grow during cornering, improving stability. The load is continually distributed by those four independent wheels which constantly move forwards, backwards, inwards, outwards, reducing passenger lean and discomfort. It does all this by replacing conventional mechanical shafts and linkages – no driveshafts, axles, mechanical gearbox or steering rods for instance – with electronics, not least those four small electric engines that individually power, steer and brake the wheels.
Tell me more about the Pivo 2's robot interface…
This is where the Pivo 2 – so clever so far – gets really peculiar. The on-board robot is there to cheer you up and make you smile, but it just ends up looking like R2-D2. Facial recognition detects what sort of mood the driver is in – the categories are happy, sad, angry, surprised and sleepy. If you’re sleepy the robot will try to rouse you by talking and if you’re angry or sad he will try to cheer you. His repertoire even includes telling jokes (I’m serious). The robot is located on top of the dash. The theory is that the robot is in fact the soul of the car and once you build up a relationship with the robot you’ll be more cheerful behind the wheel and love your car more. It’s symptomatic of Nissan’s passion for driving, apparently. With a bit of luck it will be an optional delete in Europe…
OK forget the robot. Any other interesting Nissan tech?
Sure, the Pivo 2 previews Nissan’s new electric engine and battery technologies. The ‘3D’ electric engines are thin and small and integrate superbly in the wheel. The compact lithium ion batteries are also new. Although lithium ion batteries are now common in consumer electronics, the new Nissan battery unit is smaller, lighter and cheaper – or so the company says. They will give the Pivo 2 a range of over 100 km (62 miles), can operate effectively in temperatures as low as minus 30 deg C and can be quick-charged in just an hour. Still not great compared with the flexibility of petrol power but it’s progress. Nissan says it will have a lithium ion powered electric commuter car on sale by 2010 – though not the Pivo 2. Some of the Pivo features, especially the wheel-mounted electric engines and the drive by wire electronics, will make it onto the street. The robot probably won’t though.