It’s almost 34-degrees Celsius and we’re standing at the edge of a rickety karting circuit that’s located around 50-miles outside the centre of Rio de Janeiro. No, this isn’t the Olympics, this is our real-world induction to the Nissan BladeGlider.
The BladeGlider is bizarre looking sports car, featuring a skinny track at the front and a wider track at the rear that gives it the appearance of a motorised arrow head.
There’s a burly looking policeman guarding the gates to the track and every now and then the sound of human flesh sizzling under the fierce sun is interrupted by the high-pitched whine of its electric motor and the squealing of tortured rubber. It pounds the tight circuit with two rather bemused and behelmeted individuals belted into the rear seats.
But this is one all-electric prototype that’s highly unlikely to ever grace a Nissan showroom. So “completely and utter pointless”, you may be thinking but, hey, the caipirinhas here are supposed to be awesome, right?
Nissan BladeGlider prototype preview: Electric excitement
But let’s be serious for a second. Nissan first unveiled its BladeGlider concept at the Tokyo Auto Show in 2013, with its jaw-dropping styling borrowing elements from the DeltaWing Le Mans racer and electric powertrain promising equally racy performance without the nasty tailpipe emissions and the associated running costs.
“We wanted to prove that electric cars can be exciting,” explains Gareth Dunsmore, director of EV Nissan Europe, when asked why the company invested so much time and money into a prototype that probably won’t see the light of day. “But the only way to do that is actually build something, to let people experience it for themselves,” he adds.
A cynic would have interrupted at this point and suggested that Tesla has been doing such a thing for a few years now – but BladeGlider is very different. If you had to compare it to a conventional car it would be a Caterham rather than a comfortable BMW 5-Series rival.
Nissan BladeGlider prototype preview: Flicking a V to convention
The driver, who sits at the very front of the three flying-v formation seats, is cocooned in a fighter jet-esque cockpit. There are three screens, the middle-most monitor providing power output information and battery charge details, while the flanking two displays replace the wing mirrors with a live video feed from outside.
All three occupants are strapped in with a race-spec four point harness, while the F1-style steering wheel features a plethora of buttons and dials that control everything from the strength of the regenerative braking to the amount of power delivered to the rear wheels.
A conventional sports car this isn’t, because on top of the space age interior there’s an all-electric powertrain that sees a 220kW lithium-ion battery and two 130kW electric motors (one at each rear wheel) pair up to deliver around 268hp.
The angular machine weighs just 1,300kg, meaning the ludicrously instantaneous 707Nm of torque is enough to propel it from 0-62mph in under 5-seconds.
Nissan BladeGlider prototype preview: Sounds, smells and sighs
It feels like a true performance machine from the rear seats, with the open-top cockpit allowing all of the sounds, smells and sights to leak into the cabin.
The lack of screaming V8 engine also means that every tyre squeak can be heard, while the sound of the wind rushing past is both slightly eerie and massively exhilarating.
We can only imagine what it’s like to pilot the machine, but the skilled helmsman sat in front wrestles with the steering wheel every time we exit a corner and he occasionally tackles certain sections completely sideways.
Nissan claims that a race-honed torque vectoring system offers the driver plenty of options when it comes to grip levels. The electric motors can be tweaked to constantly monitor and deliver optimum power for tidy lines or flicked into Drift Mode if you feel like acting the hooligan.
And that’s a given considering Formula E experts Williams Advanced Engineering were drafted in to help with the development of BladeGlider – and the UK firm’s experience on the race circuit is instantly obvious.
Nissan BladeGlider prototype preview: Coming to nowhere near you, ever
Scintillating stuff, then, but Dunsmore and the rest of the Nissan technical staff claim it’s extremely unlikely this thing will ever go into production.
And as for the whole “electric cars can be exciting” thing, that’s all well and good when your model line-up actually contains an enthralling EV but Nissan is currently peddling the Leaf and the eNV-200. Both of which lack a certain amount of fizz.
However, Nissan is currently mapping out a future that sees its internal combustion engines slowly replaced by electric and hybrid vehicles, so let’s just hope that one of those is a bonkers, three-seat sports car that looks a bit like a Dairylea Triangle with wheels.
Because the BladeGlider is bonkers and brilliant.