While there were many headturning unveilings at last week’s Paris Motor Show — including breathlessly hyped supercars from the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes Benz, Jaguar and even Peugeot —Nissan’s TeRRA SUV concept snuck through the press coverage with making much noise. Combining the Japanese automaker’s success with urban-relevant SUVs (e.g. Pathfinder, Juke, Murano etc) with their focus on zero-emission technology, what makes the TeRRA SUV concept noteworthy is that it’s not limited to Nissan’s groundbreaking all-electric powertrain found in the LEAF or Infiniti LE Concept (which we’ve covered at length). Instead, it uses the LEAF’s electric propulsion technology to power the front wheels, but compliments the system with a 2.5kW/L hydrogen fuel cell stack to power the rear. Each back wheel has its own in-wheel electric motor giving the TeRRA Concept a true 4×4 experience, yet since there’s no drive shafts between the front and rear wheels the cabin floor remains totally flat.
As Nissan’s Global CEO Carlos Ghosn made perfectly clear this summer, they are more dedicated to zero emissions than any other major manufacturer (read our interview with Mr. Ghosn HERE), and the TeRRA Concept is further testament to that. “Our challenge was to take Nissan’s strength in SUVs and crossovers forward into the zero-emissions era, fuel cells being our new frontier in zero emission mobility” explains Nissan exec Francois Bancon at the unveiling. “Not big and tough for the desert, the aim was a new approach to SUVs that’s relevant to urban life.”
Visually the TeRRA combines the traditional big tires, high belt-line, thick pillars and thin side windows of SUV exterior design with a warm blond wood trim and colored acrylic inside. The interior is highlighted by an electronic tablet instrument cluster which acts as an “intelligent key” — the driver takes the tablet with him, and docks it when entering the car to turn it on. When activated the tablet does everything from displaying speed and performance indicators with entertainment, navigation and other communications. Another unique touch to the TeRRA Concept SUV is its seating configuration that places the driver front and almost center, creating a diagonal layout that positions rear passengers over the shoulders of those in front providing a fresh perspective with exceptional visibility. Although no plans yet to produce the concept SUV, Nissan has created the TeRRA to ensure the massive automaker is ready to strike should hydrogen infrastructure ever become more robust.