Meet Sparky, Nissan’s Leaf-based electric pickup

When Nissan engineers Roland Schellenberg and Arnold Moulinet needed a small shop truck for the company’s 3,050-acre technical centre in Stanfield, Arizona, they decided – as engineers are wont to do – to build one.

And as engineers relish a good challenge, Schellenberg’s gaze fell upon the least likely candidate for pickup conversion, Nissan’s Leaf electric car. He tasked Moulinet with creating the sketches that, with help from their team of tinkerers, would be come the crimson conversation piece you see here.

It is known around the tech centre campus as Sparky. To build it, the Arizona team married the bodywork and mechanical bits – including the 107-horsepower electric motor and under-floor lithium-ion battery pack – of a donor Leaf with the inner bed of Nissan’s Frontier compact pickup truck. They narrowed the bed by 10in and cut down the height by 4in, and finished the floor with varnished wooden slats for a retro touch.

Cockpit furnishings are standard Leaf fare, but the team ditched the rear seats and enclosed the cab with sheet metal (including a power window) from a junked full-size Titan pickup. The finished product is a charmer. The Leaf’s rakish shape, as it turns out, takes to pickup duty remarkably well; Sparky comes off as a sort of 21st Century riff on the old Subaru BRAT, and that’s no bad thing.

Of course, the car’s cheeky appeal begs an obvious question: should Nissan, whose management green-lighted such oddities as the Juke, the Cube and the Murano CrossCabriolet, push Sparky into production?

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