PHOTOS: Nissan engineers made an electric pickup truck by hacking up a Leaf electric car

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Updated Oct 2, 2014
Sparky: Nissan electric pickup truck

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A team building exercise at Nissan’s Technical Center in Stanfield, Arizona produced another spin on the company’s hybrid technology capabilities.

Part Nissan LEAF and part Nissan Frontier, the mashup pickup supports operations at Nissan’s 3,050 acre proving grounds located in Stanfield. The a one-of-a-kind electric vehicle hauls supplies and people around on the tech center property.

“We tried to keep it a secret and be exciting for everybody. But we have visitors and they come and they see that truck and they go straight to ‘what is it?’ and they start looking at it, and it makes great conversation,” says Roland Schellenberg, Nissan Durability & Reliability.

Sparky, as he’s known around the campus, was brought to life by Nissan’s Roland Schellenberg and Arnold Moulinet.

“I needed a project for a team building activity so we can bring the team together,” says Schellenberg. “We had a need for a truck. Something to drive around, a shop truck.”

It was months in the making, and there were many considerations, but Arnold Moulinet, Schellenberg’s colleague in the Durability & Reliability group, had the right tool-set to fabricate the vehicle into reality.

“After he (Schellenberg) told us it was going to be the LEAF that we would redo, I went home and stayed up till like four in the morning making all kinds of designs for what would work,” he says. “We basically got the stock LEAF, and after reviewing a bunch of designs of pickup trucks that we have here at Nissan, we decided to go with a Frontier bed. My main job here is working on rough-road vehicles, rough-road testing. I’m pretty good at taking cars completely apart to the bare frame and putting them back together again to resume testing,” said Moulinet.

The low-desert terrain at Nissan’s technical center provides an ideal environment to test vehicles for hot weather, heat durability, engine cooling and air conditioner performance. There is also a 5.7-mile high-speed oval and four individual road courses designed to test vehicle durability, reliability and ride comfort. Sparky now is part of the support team to help operations run smoothly.

“Being a slick truck, and not so tough, I see it as a boy – but a boy with a heart,” says Schellenberg. “It’s something that we all put together. We all share. So it has a little bit of everybody in there.”