Infiniti LE Concept at the New York Auto Show

Infiniti LE Concept Of all the automakers, Nissan-Renault has placed the biggest bet on electric vehicles. The partners have gone on record saying they intend to sell 1.5 million electric vehicles by 2016, and believe EVs will have a 10 percent market share by 2020.

Not surprising then, that Nissan's premier division, Infiniti, also gets electric marching orders, and the first Infiniti EV will be a production version of a concept that got its world debut at the New York International Auto Show — the Infiniti LE Concept. Nissan president Carlos Ghosn had the honours of revealing the Infiniti LE and stated that the sleek sedan is “85 percent accurate to what you will be able to drive in the next 24 months.”

The first aspect of LE to point out is that it is not a re-badged Nissan LEAF. Far from it.

“The challenge to the engineers and designers was to make it nothing like the Leaf,” noted Andy Palmer, a Nissan vice-president with a lot on his plate, including global operations of Infiniti.

Palmer said LE Concept diverges from LEAF most in two technical areas — aerodynamics and weight savings.

LE features lightweight aluminum body panels. Its coefficient of drag is a fantastic 0.25.

Infiniti-LE-concept_i02 Infiniti also decided that its first EV had to be on a platform designed specifically for electric power. “When you make a transformation, you end up putting the battery where the fuel tank is, and end up with awful weight distribution,” said Palmer. “We will not put an Infiniti badge on something that doesn't ride and handle properly.”

It should accelerate properly too, thanks to an e-powertrain with 240 lb-ft of torque, juiced by a 24 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. A full charge is expected to give the LE a range of 160 km (100 miles).

The LE can be plugged in via a receptacle behind the Infiniti badge on the grille. But it also features wireless charging. In fact, if all goes according to plan, the LE should be the first production vehicle with a built-in wireless charging system.

Wireless charging via “inductive” energy flow has been around for decades. A lot of people have inductive stoves. One energy coil is connected to an energy source. It creates a magnetic field that excites electrical current in a second coil. In the LE’s case, a coil is located at the rear of the car, and the other coil, the one connected to a power source, could be safely encased on the garage floor.

But inductive systems are usually only 80 percent as efficient in transferring electricity as conventional wired systems.

Infiniti LE Concept Palmer conceded that, but pointed to the “huge amount of convenience” that wireless charging offers to customers. He's got a point. Just roll into your garage, and if you've bookmarked the parking place in the GPS, the Infiniti is ready to “self park" precisely over the charging spot, with a feature called “Intelligent Park Assist.”

But Palmer is most proud of the concept’s sleek bodylines. He noted it was extremely difficult to achieve those precise, sharp lines, in the aluminum body panels. Three times they started again, to make sure this all electric car was all Infiniti and all luxury.