Nissan's dedication for the advancement of technology and innovation has given birth to some of the world's most advanced research and development centers. In a recent trip to Japan, the author, along with the Nissan Tokyo Motor Show delegation were given the opportunity to visit two of Nissan's latest facilities, the Nissan Design Center and Nissan Advanced Technology Center.

Located in the Nissan Technical Center in Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, codenamed the Nissan Project Imagination Factory is Nissan's latest design center in Japan, which was opened in November 2006. It is part of Nissan's 90-Billion Yen R&D Capability Enhancement Program.

Nissan models, concepts

The 42,000 square-meter design facility employs about 600 designers and associated support staff and is headed by Nissan's Chief Creative Officer Shiro Nakamura. The new design center is an evolution of the integrated Tsurumi and Ogikubo studios, which was set in place on 1982. The result is a spacious design center with an ideal environment for creativity. The studio was built with a collaboration and communication theme to strengthen the relationships between different departments involved in vehicle development within Nissan and supplier companies as well.

Clay Modeling

The facility includes state-of-the-art artists' graphic stations, an advanced clay modeling facility, and an information gallery where the artists get inspiration from contemporary designs and update themselves on the latest trends, which influence vehicle design. The facility is responsible for producing some of the latest Nissan models including the new GT-R, X-Trail, and Murano. A sports coupe (possibly the successor to the 350Z) was also seen through one of the windows, unfortunately cameras weren't allowed.

The recently inaugurated Nissan Advanced Technology Center has been designated the global R&D center for Nissan. The NATC is composed of a new concept office, advanced vehicle lab and electric powertrain lab, with 2,000 engineers. The facility focuses on the following: Advanced vehicle development, Electric powered vehicle & components, Intelligent Traffic Systems (ITS), Future mobility and society to help make a sustainable living environment. The facility follows an orchard concept technology framework for its research and development activities.

Information Street

The unique concept office structure features a stepped design making communication within the building easier, and for the people in the upper floors to catch a bird's eye view of the collaboration garage. The collaboration garage allows for combined inputs on a vehicle from inside and outside of Nissan. It also allows for the combination of having the vehicle on site as well as a CAD rendering of the vehicle together. An 'information street' allows an engineer to get the latest information and stimuli from new magazines and books, hot trends, high-profile vehicles from competitors, supplier parts exhibition, parts comparative analysis, Nissan's technology showcase, and a communication space for sharing and combining ideas.

Housed on the upper floors, the vehicle development centered layout of the experimental facilities develop future vehicles, advanced lithium ion battery facilities, and ITS in the advanced vehicle lab. The electric powertrain lab on the other hand, further develops Electric Vehicles (EV) and Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV) and simulates their road application.

Alcohol sensors

With safety being one of the most important concerns, Nissan has come up with new technologies like an Around View Monitor, Distance Control Assist System, and Lane Departure Prevention; these are collectively known as the Safety Shield. In its efforts to prevent drunk driving accidents, it has deployed countermeasures such as message alerts warning about drunk driving, facial expression detection camera, alcohol detection sensors on the driver's seat and shift knob, and driving behavior detection. All these are connected to the alcohol interlock system, which does a forced outage on the vehicle for alcoholics who do not heed the numerous warnings made by the system.

Environmental protection is a step towards sustainability, the Nissan Green Program has several develops in place to address this. Gasoline engine technologies like the VVEL (Variable Valve Event and Lift) system contributes to a 10% reduction in emissions while providing more torque at the same time. A new Ultra Low Precious Metal Catalyst for vehicles halves the amount of precious metals resulting in cleaner emissions. Diesel engine technology is being spearheaded by its new Clean Diesel engines which use the latest common rail diesel technology, diesel particulate filter, variable geometry turbocharger and balancer shaft; resulting in significantly lower NOx emissions.

The combination of the future development of Nissan has led to the Pivo 2 concept vehicle, which combines emotion, form, motion and a robotic interface together. A new compact 3D electric motor with advanced lithium ion batteries powers the vehicle. The robotic interface functions like an R2D2 unit from the movie Star Wars. It monitors driver condition and reacts appropriately. In the condition a driver is sleepy, it tells a joke or if the driver is angry, it will help alleviate the anger to prevent road rage. The unit connects the car and the driver with a feeling of affection and trust to effectively support the driver to drive with a positive frame of mind.

Nissan 2I_2I Q

All these are testament to Nissan's Shift into the future with its Vision 2015 combining environment, safety, life on board, and dynamic performance with Quality and cost in consideration.