How the Nissan Pivo Works

Pivo vs. Pivo 2

While the Pivo's designers sought to create a car that was practical, earth-friendly and innovative, the label that the first Pivo seemed to elicit most often was "cute." The Japanese might call it "kawaii." In any language, that reaction was just fine by the designers, who designed the original Pivo to address relatively mundane driving worries like parallel parking. Nissan conducted extensive research at the time to figure out what made people calm and alert behind the wheel. This emphasis on cuteness over more aggressive styling was part of the packaging.

When Nissan began building the next-generation Pivo, they wanted drivers to see it not only as a cute contraption, but as an extension of themselves. We'll discuss that idea in greater detail later on. For now, consider these differences between the first-generation and second-generation Pivo, which debuted in 2005 and late 2007 respectively:

  • The original Pivo featured two axles to drive the independently steerable front and rear wheels. The Pivo 2 features an electric motor for each independently steerable wheel for unprecedented mobility. The pod housing on each of the Pivo 2's wheels can also move for better weight distribution.
  • The original Pivo lacked the Robotic Agent and emotive expressions, like the beckoning gesture of the wheel, to invite drivers aboard (yes, the wheel actually moves as a sort of welcoming gesture). The Pivo 2 features both.
  • The Pivo 2 uses driving telematics and feedback from the driver's behavior and facial expressions behind the wheel to determine the driver's mood. If the driver appears to be in a "negative" state, the Robotic Agent attempts to cheer him or her up.
  • The overall design aesthetic of the two cars differs. The Pivo 2's variable geometry wheels, bright blue and silver color scheme and prominent robot buddy are meant to spur a personal relationship between car and driver.

Both versions are full battery-electric vehicles, as opposed to gas-electric hybrids. The Pivo 2's lithium ion battery pack gets between 60 and 78 miles (97 to 126 kilometers) to the charge, and the car plugs into an ordinary household electrical outlet.

How does the Pivo's electric motor work? While the Pivo and Pivo 2 are both powered by advanced lithium ion batteries, both models take fundamentally different approaches in how they deliver power to the wheels.

The first Pivo's chassis base housed cylindrical front and rear-axles, each containing a powerful electric motor called the Super Motor. One motor powered the left and right wheel on each axle. On the Pivo 2, each wheel is housed in its own, movable pod-like enclosure. Each wheel is able to turn within its enclosure, making each individual wheel capable of more than 90 degrees of turn. Nissan calls this the Metamo system, and it allows two neat things to happen. It makes the Pivo 2 extremely agile, as it can drive sideways like a scuttling crab. It can also enhance stability when accelerating, decelerating or entering tight turns and curves.

The Pivo 2 uses 3D in-wheel motors. The 3D motors, a joint project of Nissan and Fujitsu General Ltd., purportedly create twice the output of traditional electric motors. Unlike bulky and cylindrical conventional electric motors, the 3D motors are disk-shaped and relatively slim [source: Nissan Global].

Go to the next page to learn how the Pivo's innovative technologies put the driver first.