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New York show: Infiniti unveils wireless-charge EV

Park and charge: The Infiniti LE concept will even remember the GPS co-ordinates of your garage wireless charging point, and will automatically park there.

Luxury electric Infiniti LE due in 2014 can charge without cables

6 Apr 2012

INFINITI’S all-electric LE concept is set to go into production within two years, potentially pioneering home wireless charging using inductive energy.

The mid-sized luxury sedan that was unveiled at the New York motor show overnight can even automatically park itself accurately over the cableless charging point in the garage floor, using automatic electric steering guided by GPS and Nissan’s Intelligent Park Assist system.

This means the driver has to merely steer the car into their garage where the Infiniti LE will do the rest – line itself up over the charging pad and begin charging without the driver having to connect any cables.

The first electric Infiniti is an almost certain starter in Australia where Nissan’s luxury brand is set to start its showroom rollout in the second half of this year with three models – the FX SUV, M sedan and G coupe and cabrio.

Unveiling the near-production Infiniti LE concept at the show, Nissan president and CEO Carlos Ghosn said his company was committed to expanding its EV market penetration with new electric vehicles such as the LE.

“Infiniti is well positioned to deliver the objectives for a sustainable future, relying on our capable, hard-working and motivated team members around the world. We are a challenger.”

16 center imageThe LE is about the same size as the Infiniti G sedan that competes with the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4/A5 in United States.

Although no driving range or power figures were revealed, torque from the electric motor is said to be 320Nm – 40Nm more than the Nissan Leaf – and battery capacity was claimed to be 24kWh – the same as the Leaf’s lithium-ion battery pack.

But as Nissan’s corporate vice-president for Infiniti, Toru Saito, told Australian journalists at the Geneva motor show, the new Infiniti EV would use a more advanced version of the Leaf’s lithium-ion electric powertrain technology.

The batteries are stored in the passenger compartment floor, which Infiniti says not only means a low centre of gravity but has no impact on cabin or boot space.

The company says the car was designed first and foremost as a luxury sedan, rather than an electric vehicle with luxury appointments.

“The Infiniti LE concept does not compromise either roominess or comfort, which is why it starts with an advanced luxury-styled sedan body, not a converted hatchback,” the company says in its show press release.

The LE carries all of Infiniti’s current design cues, but the hexagonal grille in this case is transparent plastic that lights up at night and hides a charging port behind the Infiniti badge, should the driver want to ‘fill up’ from a plug-in charging point.

This closed fascia helps to sharpen the aerodynamics, with Infiniti reporting a stunning 0.25Cd drag coefficient.

Other aero features include low-drag alloy wheels, a high rear deck, rear diffuser and side fin spoilers that, like the grille, lights up.

No acceleration figures were offered, only a promise of “exceptional acceleration and re-acceleration, providing a new level of luxury driving experience”.

Infiniti Americas vice president Ben Poore Buyers said buyers wanted ‘green’, but would not settle for a poorer driving experience than that of their current luxury vehicles.

“For those who have never driven a modern EV, the immediate full-torque response when you step on the accelerator is amazing,” he said.

The Leaf accelerates from zero to 100km/h in about 10 seconds.

Infiniti says the LE will build on the foundations laid by the brand’s first venture into electric drive technology, the M35h, which is also on the list of impending models for Australia.

The LE’s biggest party trick will be the ability to charge its batteries without a plug-in connection, via inductive energy, and do it with minimal driver intervention.

Infiniti stopped short of saying the feature would be included in the production version, saying “if it is adapted for the production”. However, it didn’t rule it out, either.

The wireless charging system requires an electric coil encased in the garage floor. When switched on, electricity in the coil creates a magnetic field that excites a second coil under the back of the car, charging the batteries.

Once the system has been charged over the in-floor coil once, the LE will remember the GPS co-ordinates and, using its electronic-guided parking system and all-round view cameras, will position the car corrctly over the charging point automatically in future.

The system can be controlled by either a smartphone or a display in the car, and is said to be easily installed in the floor, and is safe around children and pets.

Interestingly, the Infiniti LE is said to rise on torsion beam rear suspension – a system usually found on cheap small cars rather than luxury sedans.

Inside, a “twin display” controls various interior functions, including pre-heating or pre-cooled the vehicle at pre-set times, synchronising with web calendars and searching for local charging stations.

“The system will be capable of reserving charging stations at public venues such as malls or ballparks, once the appropriate infrastructure is in place,” Infiniti says.

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