Long before the Leaf — back in 1973 to be precise — Nissan had already been messing around with electric cars for decades. However, while the prevailing idea of an electric car was an office chair-sized bubble on wheels, Nissan built a space-tastic electric pickup truck. In fact, it built two.
Nissan’s earliest electric cars date back even earlier, but he first of the EV pickups to be developed was the 1973 Nissan EV4-P. It ran on a bank of lead-acid batteries stored in a compartment between the front and rear axles beneath the bed. The power output was 27 kilowatts (a Nissan Leaf’s is 80 kW) and it wasn’t fast, but it could go an impressive 302 kilometers (188 miles) on one charge.
The second truck, the EV4-H, built upon the lessons learned from the EV4-P and employed a hybrid drivetrain. In this case, hybrid meant simply two types of batteries — high-output lead-acid batteries and high-energy-density zinc-air batteries — and a control system that optimized the balance between the two in a variety of driving conditions. With the hybrid system, the EV4-P clocked an impressive range of 496 kilometers (308 miles) on a single charge.
Both had advanced aluminum and FRP unibodies, which allowed payloads of up to 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds). The stuff bolted to the undercarriage was par for the times: of drum brakes, leaf spring rear suspensions, and a torsion bar and coil spring combo up front.
Nissan even went as far as crash testing one EV4-P, which indicates there was at least some consideration for unleashing it on the streets. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. Top speed was only 54 mph for the EV4-P and 56 mph for the EV4-H, so they wouldn’t have been exactly practical in driving conditions that involved highways. They were likely prohibitively expensive to mass produce as well. Even if the time wasn’t right for an electric truck, though, the shuttlecraft design of the EV4-P would’ve been pretty rad on a production pickup.
If you want to geek out over the trucks’ details, someone at the Nissan Diesel forum has found an English language brochure and transcribed it. Happy Earth Day from JNC.
Images: Nissan, Nissan Diesel.