Infiniti has shown its Prototype 10 Concept, which it describes as a “physical manifestation of Infiniti’s creative and ambitious plans for electrified performance”.
The speedster concept, powered by an electrified powertrain, signposts Infiniti’s intentions to be an electric-only brand from 2021, adopting a variety of powertrains developed under parent company Nissan. It's the second retro-inspired concept after the Prototype 9, which evoked Formula 1 racers of the past.
It’s a roofless single-seater, with the motor at the rear and cooled by large vents behind the driver’s seat and where the passenger seat would be. Only the driver's seat, four-point harness, pedals and smaller diameter steering wheel adorn the interior. Steering by wire eliminates the need for a steering column; instead, the wheel is fixed to carbon-fibre struts that emerge directly out of the car’s bodywork. Its design builds on that of the Q Inspiration concept saloon, which was revealed at the Detroit motor show earlier this year.
The Prototype 10’s simplicity reflects the flexibility available when designing cars with electrified powertrains, says the brand’s new executive design director, Karim Habib. The car will never make production, however, given the tiny market for single-seat track cars and Infiniti’s relatively low sales in Europe, but the brand’s future range of sports cars, saloons and SUVs will be made using the car’s design language, with different electrified powertrains depending on the model.
Pure-electric cars will be made, as will range extender-equipped ones designed for longer journeys; no external charger is needed, and all the power is generated by the petrol range extender, developed by Nissan as the e-Power system. Performance hybrids are also on the way, capitalising on the performance benefits of plug-in hybrid systems. An electric four-wheel drive system is confirmed for eventual production. These will all sit inside flat-floored modular architecture to boost packaging benefits, which will be introduced on its electrified cars in 2021.
The car’s design, which draws heavily from early California speedsters of the mid-20th century, was overseen by Infiniti’s design centre in Kanagawa, designed virtually in the UK and built in the US. Under development, the car’s simple shape and the fact that only the driver’s head can be seen when sitting behind the wheel led the development team to dub the car ‘The Bathtub’. The driver’s seat was mounted as low as possible to keep the car’s centre of gravity close to the ground.
Infiniti’s renewed ethos means that its cars will be designed to have better driving dynamics than current models, as well as being more powerful and efficient as the brand makes the most of the performance benefits of electric power. Habib said: “The Prototype 10 echoes the layout and design of early speedsters. This period saw the creation of some of the most evocative car designs of all time, where power was celebrated through high-powered single-seat competition cars, were characterised by the simple love of driving.”