Behind Nissan’s New All-Electric Crossover: Ariya

Behind Nissan’s New All-Electric Crossover: Ariya

From icy Scandinavian forests to the sun-kissed streets of Mediterranean villages, the diversity of Europe's driving landscapes is second to none. Yet when it comes to creating a new electric vehicle for the European market, this diversity can present a challenge.

Customers in the wilds of Norway need their EV to handle just as well as for someone driving in urban traffic in Paris, or powering along the highways that criss-cross the continent. And for electric vehicles, aligning with Europe's EV charging infrastructure adds yet another level to the brief.

Tackling this challenge is Ian Shepherd, Assistant Chief Vehicle Engineer at Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE), Cranfield, UK. Responsible for Nissan's EV projects, Ian leads the communication between the Nissan Europe team and development teams in Japan, to ensure Europe's customer needs and expectations aren't just met, but exceeded. "As the frontline European development centre, NTCE understands the needs of European customers, using experience that has been gained over the almost 40 years of its existence," Ian reveals.

Ian Shepherd

Nissan Technical Centre Europe

Ian's job has traditionally focused on the LEAF, but has since expanded to the all-new Qashqai, which will introduce Nissan's unique e-POWER technology to Europe, and Nissan's brand new all-electric coupé crossover: Ariya. To ensure each model is fit for European roads, Ian and the team at NTCE begin by setting themselves performance targets, then work towards them with focus and refinement.

Developing the icon of Nissan Intelligent Mobility

For Ariya, this meant envisioning a car that had revolutionary styling with "sleek seamless proportions, linked to this amazing acceleration and chassis performance, with a powerful front face."

While Ariya's DNA descends from LEAF, the ambition with the first mass-market EV crossover was to "showcase NIM technologies within a really stylish exterior and interior package with no compromise," with Ian adding that "the competitiveness of this was constantly checked in this ever-changing segment." Combining a pioneering history and technical expertise in both electric vehicle and crossover segments, the Ariya is a true icon of Nissan Intelligent Mobility.

Insight-driven testing and modifications

At NTCE's Driving Performance Centre in Bonn, Germany, Nissan engineers have been tuning vehicles for over 20 years. Ian explains that "European driving scenes, especially high-speed performance and winding roads are very different to other markets."

When developing the Ariya, it was important that it had the capabilities to handle this as one-minute drivers can be reaching top-speed down the autobahn in Germany, and the next minute winding round country roads in the mountains of the Alps. Ian adds that "capabilities such as acceleration, ride and handling, steering feel and ProPILOT performance need to be tuned to make sure the vehicles are suited to the European market."

Benefiting from testing on a variety of roads, Ian explains that "we were able to make modifications to the handling and braking software as well as study elements from interior comfort, to optimise performance."

Marco Fioravanti

For Marco Fioravanti, Vice President Product Planning for Nissan's AMIEO region, testing new vehicles under local conditions is a critical part of the process of understanding how the driving experience can be improved.

"Through advanced testing, we were able to build on the EV heritage of the LEAF and develop the Ariya to perform under European driving conditions, which are very specific and different to other regions. Using e-4ORCE technology, the system works seamlessly in the background on high-speed or winding roads, delivering performance and precision control without the driver noticing for a more comfortable and enjoyable ride for all passengers."

To further tailor the vehicle to the region, certain components were developed specifically for Europe. "Some important insights were brought back from the trip to Norway", Ian shared. As the market with the biggest acceptance of EVs, Norway is an ideal location to learn about customer needs and how electric vehicles are being used in daily life. "We were told that many customers had both an EV and a boat so having a towing capacity was a must for this large market."

This became an important differentiator for Ariya as Ian adds, "it was something that competitors had missed and that we developed." From precision control when cornering to towing capacity for weekend trips with the family, the Ariya has been put through the paces to ensure it's up for the challenge.