Nissan Terra

Nissan Terra

2012 Paris Auto Show

2012 Paris Auto Show

Just the Facts:
  • Nissan unveiled the Terra fuel cell concept at the 2012 Paris Auto Show.
  • In addition to affirming Nissan's commitment to fuel cell technology, the Terra reveals the future styling direction for the brand's SUVs and crossovers.
  • Specifically, the concept is a glimpse at the next-generation Xterra, which might adopt unit-body architecture in favor of the current body-on-frame design.

PARIS — Nissan unveiled the Terra concept today at the 2012 Paris Auto Show. Not only does the Terra show Nissan's commitment to fuel cell technology, it provides a glimpse at the future styling direction for Nissan's crossovers and SUVs.

Given its name, you might guess there's some relationship to the U.S.-market Xterra. And indeed, you can expect to see this design language on the next-generation Xterra, says Simon Sproule, Nissan's corporate vice president for global marketing. In addition, the next Xterra might end up as a compact crossover SUV instead of the tough, body-on-frame SUV that it is today.

"The volume in that segment is getting pretty small," Sproule said. While the Frontier pickup will retain its body-on-frame platform architecture due to global demand for compact and midsize trucks, the case for building a body-on-frame Xterra is not as clear-cut.

"Whether that translates over to SUVs is something our product planners are figuring out," Sproule told us.

Whatever the platform Nissan uses for the next Xterra, it wouldn't show up out of the gates as a fuel cell vehicle, as the company plans to hold off any production launch of this technology until the hydrogen refueling infrastructure has matured.

The technology itself continues to progress, though, as Nissan says the Terra's fuel cell stack is much smaller than the unit in its Xtrail fuel cell vehicles, with a higher energy density. The Terra's stack has a claimed energy density of 2.5 kilowatts per liter. For comparison, the only fuel cell production car to date, the Honda FCX Clarity, gets 100kW from its 57-liter stack, which works out to 1.75kW per liter.

To get the power to the theoretical ground, the Nissan Terra uses three electric motors. One of them drives the front wheels, as Nissan simply borrowed the front-drive propulsion system from the Leaf, and the other two are mounted in each rear wheel.

Inside, a removable tablet provides for both the instrumentation and a keyless ignition system, while gorgeous and impractical door panels were crafted in wood and acrylic by a Japanese furniture designer.

Edmunds says: Fuel cell vehicles inch a little closer to series production, but the Nissan Terra has relevance in the near term, as it gives you an idea of what the next Nissan Xterra might be like, substituting an internal combustion engine for the fuel cell stack.

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