Nissan is celebrating an anniversary with the Nissan LEAF-powered Bluebird electric vehicle. After 35 years, the Sunderland factory is marking the historic occasion with a one-off of the first car ever built there: the Bluebird. Nissan has dubbed this project the “Newbird,” but what is the history of this significant vehicle?
The Nissan LEAF-powered Bluebird electric vehicle is a celebration
Nissan UK announced today that the Bluebird was coming back for a special occasion. In 1986, the Nissan Bluebird was the first vehicle off the Sunderland production line. Nissan has dubbed this project the “Newbird,” a revamp of the classic Bluebird. The Nissan LEAF electric drivetrain powers this project car.
Nissan says the LEAF was “the pioneering mass-market EV that kick-started the global trend towards electrification of mobility.” After recently announcing the Nissan Ambition 2030 plan to electrify the lineup, the Bluebird fits right in.
“The ‘Newbird’ represents all that is great about our plant – past, present, and future – as we celebrate 35 years of manufacturing in Sunderland,” Alan Johnson, Vice President, Manufacturing, at Nissan Sunderland Plant, said. He went on to say, “We have a rich heritage of building great cars, right from the original Bluebird model, and our fantastic team is now leading the way as we drive towards an exciting electrified, carbon-neutral future.”
How did the Nissan Bluebird turn into the electric Newbird?
Andrew Humberstone, the Managing Director of Nissan Motor Great Britain, said the Bluebird represents a lot for the company. Many cars have started at the Sunderland factory, which is no different. The Nissan Juke, Qashqai, and LEAF are “home-grown heroes” for UK customers. “This ‘Newbird’ project is a wonderful tribute to the enduring presence of high-quality manufacturing that Nissan has enjoyed in the UK for more than three decades,” Humberstone said.
Nissan modified the Bluebird extensively to integrate the Nissan LEAF’s electric drivetrain. While it initially used a conventional gasoline-powered motor, Nissan removed that and the gearbox. The people behind the project installed the LEAF motor, inverter, and 40kWh battery pack in its place. Nissan also split the battery modules between the engine and the trunk area to optimize the weight distribution.
The Nissan Bluebird also got a revamped power steering, braking, and heating system to fit the new electric drivetrain. The experts also installed upgraded, custom suspension to assist with the weight of the two battery packs.
Fun electric upgrades to the original Sunderland vehicle
The Bluebird actually gets charged through the original gasoline fuel cap, which provides access to the charging port. This allows charging at up to 6.6kW. On the dashboard, Nissan modified the original fuel gauge to show the state of charge on the battery. The Bluebird is estimated to get around 130 miles on a single charge and has a zero to 62 mph time of approximately 15 seconds. Not bad for an old bird!
This project was made possible by Kinghorn Electric Vehicles in Durham, North East England, close to the Sunderland facility. Nissan Design Europe, based in London, created the exterior design of the Newbird. The Sunderland factory officially opened in September 1986 and has produced more than 10.5 million vehicles. If you want to see the original Nissan Bluebird, titled Bluebird Job 1, it is displayed in the local museum.