Nissan’s working BladeGlider sport EV prototype calls to car lovers

Nissan is bringing a working version of the BladeGlider all-electric sport concept it first revealed in 2013 to Rio to ride the hype wave of the Olympics. The car is cool enough to merit hype in its own right, as a performance-engineered zero emission EV from a company that typically stays in the more conservative end of the market with staid offerings like the Nissan Leaf.

Now, first, let me preface what I’m about to say by acknowledging that the BladeGlider is indeed cool, as a car, as something that looks like a convincing set piece from a Luc Besson sci-fi epic, and as an engineering project. It’s a technological feat that many engineers and designers clearly put a lot of time and effort into.

But I find it very hard to ignore that the name “BladeGlider,” along with its two color options of “Cyber Green” and “Stealth Orange,” make it sound like the product we’re talking about here is actually the latest 5-bladed, garishly colored razor monstrosity from Gillette or Schick.

Okay, branding aside, this “EV for car lovers,” as it’s described by Daniele Shillaci, Executive Vice President of Global Marketing and Sales at Nissan, is genuinely interesting as a fully functioning example of where the automaker sees the performance end of the EV market heading.

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It definitely looks race track-inspired, with a narrow nose and a wider back Nissan says provide “aerodynamic efficiency” and more stable handling, plus there’s wonderfully absurd rear-hinged doors Nissan freely admits is aimed at generating dramatic effect.

The powertrain comes from the U.K.’s Williams Advanced Engineering, and demo models can exceed 190km/h (around 115mph) with a zero to sixty time of less than five seconds in testing. It’s the motors on each of its real wheels that provide that propulsion generate a combined 268 hp, which is a lot for the relatively light 2,866-pound vehicle.

Nissan didn’t just go bare-bones on the interior, either; the roof is open to give you the feeling of being connected to the road, and the race-style seats with four-point harnesses provide room for a driver and two offset passengers behind them. The dashboard is simple and clean, but still offers three monitors to keep an eye on things, including a central display offering real-time data from the car, with the flanking screens showing feeds from rear-view cameras seated behind the front wheels.

I can forgive Nissan the trespasses of the razor naming conventions, since the razor industry basically lifted that macho garbage from the auto industry to begin with. And since we could use more cars like the BMW i8 and Model S that push the limits of what we think of as high-end EV, it’s nice to see Nissan push this one past the concept stage and into something drivable.