Embodying the company's latest take on zero-emissions thinking, the Nissan TeRRA SUV Concept makes its world debut at the 2012 Paris Auto Show. In addition to its next-gen interior and exterior design cues, this compact crossover features an innovative 4x4 electric drivetrain powered by a new, super-efficient production-ready fuel cell that's both smaller and far less expensive to manufacture than anything the automaker has ever created. "Our challenge was to take Nissan's strength in SUVs and crossovers forward into the zero-emissions era, fuel cells being our new frontier in zero-emission mobility," notes Francois Bancon, Nissan's division general manager of product strategy and planning. "Not big and tough for the desert, the aim was a new approach to SUVs that's relevant to urban life."

Although Shiro Nakamura, Nissan senior vice president and chief creative officer, claims the TeRRA's highly stylized sheetmetal drew its primary inspiration from the character of young, active European buyers, even a quick glance confirms that it also shares a fair bit of visual commonality with both the Juke and the Qashqai.  "You have the big tires, a high belt-line, thick pillars and thin side windows of the SUV vocabulary. But with a slender waist and sculptured bonnet, we've created an 'Implied Structure' of musculature under the skin." Short overhangs, bold lighting elements and a full-length underbody aero fairing complement the look, giving the TeRRA what Nakamura refers to as an image of "Modern Toughness."

The TeRRA's 4-passenger cabin expresses a decidedly different and intentionally warmer character, matching a bounty of blond wood layered with colored acrylic set off by metallic accenting. A unique seating configuration positions the driver near the centerline of the vehicle and the ahead of front passenger with the individual rear seats being offset on a diagonal bias. According to Nakamura, that layout ensures better sightlines for all on board. Conventional front and rear-hinged rear doors facilitate access while each of the TeRRA's three slim-line passenger perches folds completely flat to create an unobstructed load floor and optimize room in the cargo bay. As a final touch, the TeRRA also features a pop-in/pop-out instrument cluster. Based on an electronic tablet that also serves as its "intelligent key," it also functions as the display for the TeRRA's navigation entertainment, communications and climate control systems.

Three motors provide go-power for the Nissan TeRRA Concept. The same elements found in the production Nissan LEAF energize its front wheels while each rear wheel carries an integral motor of its own, a feature that eliminates the need for halfshafts and further improves overall packaging. All are fed electricity generated by an advanced hydrogen-fed fuel cell stack that boasts a world-best power density of 2.5kW/liter. In addition to its compact size, production costs of this flat-format cell costs are just one-sixth of current 2005-era unit it replaces and it uses only a quarter of the costly precious metals required by that unit. Although readily admitting that the TeRRA is a pure concept vehicle, Nissan says its new state-of-the-art fuel cell powertrain is definitely ready for prime production time at any point when hydrogen becomes more readily available.

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