With the Nissan Hyper Force, EVs Go Punk

At last year’s Tokyo Motor Show, the biggest shock was a cyberpunk-y sports car concept from Nissan, dubbed the “Hyper Force.” Setting aside its off-brand superhero name, it was clear that this car was something special even before the silk sheet had been whipped off. The outline of an oversized Formula One rear wing was clearly visible under the fabric, and the concept’s long, low silhouette led everyone at the show to jump to the same conclusion: Godzilla had returned.

Indeed, Godzilla is back, but not in the way we’d imagined. The Hyper Force concept is a thinly veiled peek at a future Nissan GT-R, the car affectionately known as “Godzilla.” But, this time, Godzilla has gone electric, hiding a technological breakthrough underneath that outrageous, futuristically styled rear wing. Created in-house by Nissan, it’s a development that changes the game for electric vehicles: all-solid-state batteries (or ASSBs).

Of course, even the most enthusiastic driver’s eyes tend to glaze over when discussing EV battery chemistry, which is why the Hyper Force concept is so important. Because this 1,300 horsepower, all-wheel drive monster exists to prove what’s possible with this new, exciting technology.

For the uninitiated, some backstory may be necessary. The GT-R earned its nickname in the early 1990s when it annihilated every competitor that ever dared to line up against it. According to the Japanese automaker’s records, the car won “29 consecutive races in the All Japan Touring Car Championship between 1990 and 1993, scoring back-to-back victories in the 1990 and 1991 Spa 24 Hours, and taking the top prize in the 1990 Nürburgring 24 Hours.”

“You’re going to see that [the Hyper Force concept] is a bit heavy, and even intentionally brutal.”

Alfonso Albaisa, Senior Vice President for Global Design at Nissan.

The GT-R also dominated the Australian Touring Car Championships, winning the 1991 and 1992 iterations of the beloved Bathurst 1000 endurance race so easily that series organizers changed the rules to effectively outlaw the Nissan. It was local Australian reporters who first coined the “Godzilla” sobriquet.

But, while the GT-R has evolved over the years, its fundamentals remain unchanged. It is, and always has been, a high-tech tour de force — a showcase for what’s possible when engineers combine brute-force horsepower and intuitive computing power. Lately, however, auto industry experts assumed that the GT-R was dead. The current R35-generation model has been in production since 2007, and that makes this monster an old-timer in car years. The brand may have kept it fresh over the decades with minor tweaks and updates, but the ground beneath Godzilla is shifting. Cars are going electric, and the GT-R is swiftly becoming a relic of the combustion age.

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At least, that was the narrative until the Hyper Force concept landed in Tokyo and blew attendees’ minds.

“It’s a little bit contrary to the jelly beans,” Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s senior VP for global design, admits to Book For Men. Albaisa is referring, of course, to the many rotund, jelly bean–shaped EVs that dot the show floor in Tokyo. Even here in Canada, you must only take a cursory glance around any mall parking lot to find them. “You’re going to see that [the Hyper Force concept] is a bit heavy, and even intentionally brutal,” he adds.

He’s right. The Hyper Force concept’s design is one part cyberpunk mixed with one part Bosozoku (the idiosyncratic and highly customized motorcycle subculture prevalent in Japan), shaken and stirred together, and then liberally poured over Nissan’s own solid-state batteries.

The cabin is pure, unadulterated futurism, with its neon lights and a gritty, tech-forward design created in collaboration with Gran Turismo video game makers, Polyphony Digital. The dashboard even changes shape depending on what driving mode you select. In R (racing) mode, for example, digital panels extend out toward the seats, enveloping the driver in a fighter jet–style cockpit. Four satellite screens hover nearby, reading out tire temperature, grip level, air pressure, and power distribution.

The exterior, too, is proportioned outrageously, with a snowplow-like front splitter and oversized wing. It’s a style inspired by Group 5 race cars, as well as that Bosozoku subculture, the popularity of which peaked in the 1980s. But the car is also thoroughly modern. Something called a “plasma actuator” suppresses air detachment along the car’s surface in order to “maximize grip and minimize inner-wheel lift during cornering.” And those gorgeous, forged carbon wheels don’t just look pretty, they also aid aerodynamics and brake cooling.

Hyper Force

But, as Albaisa explains, such aggressive shapes and extreme performance in a compact sports car are only made possible by the all-solid-state batteries. And Nissan is just one of many companies currently discovering the possibilities this game-changing technology offers.

Without launching into a full-blown chemistry lesson, the benefits ASSBs can afford drivers is that they charge significantly faster, and are roughly twice as energy dense as current lithium-ion batteries. Not only that, they use less expensive materials, which will bring overall costs down. In other words, ASSBs address many of the concerns and shortcomings of current EVs — from range and weight, to charging times and cost. Deployed in a friendly, affordable family car, ASSBs could create a $25,000 car that can reach 600 kilometres on a single charge. Used in a Nissan GT-R, the technology will deliver mind-bending speed and agility.

Nissan Hyper Force Book for Men

In Tokyo, Nissan showcased prototypes of its new batteries, and they are both extremely light and more easily packaged than current cylindrical battery cells. The carmaker has committed to investing $17.6 billion USD into EV development, a large chunk of which is going to ASSB research and development. In its long-term “Ambition 2030” road map, Nissan has already announced plans to launch the company’s first EV with in-house ASSBs by 2028. Or, in other words, Godzilla could be making an all-electric comeback as early as 2030.