Needing the right tool for the job often requires ingenuity. That’s exactly the case at Nissan’s Stanfield, Arizona proving grounds. The team of engineers needed a truck-like vehicle to haul test gear, but something that got great gas mileage around the 3,050-acre complex.

Meet Sparky, the wild idea a few Nissan engineers cooked up while trying to solve the dilemma. The team started with a stock Nissan LEAF, the all-electric hatchback and combined it with several parts scavenged off a Nissan Frontier pickup. The combination is something of a Frankenstein, but it gets the job done.

Not using a drop of fuel, little Sparky makes his way across the grounds and helps out with testing of future Nissan products. "I needed a project for a team building activity so we can bring the team together. We had a need for a truck. Something to drive around, a shop truck," says Roland Schellenberg, one of Nissan’s masterminds behind Sparky.

Helping build Sparky was Arnold Moulinet. “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.”

Now the Nissan development team has an electrically powered mini truck that functions as park of the team. “It’s something that we all put together,” says Schellenberg. “We all share, so it has a little bit of everybody in there.”

Nissan Sparky in detail

2014 Nissan Leaf "Sparky" High Resolution Exterior
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Would you buy "Sparky" if Nissan built it?
2014 Nissan Leaf "Sparky" High Resolution Exterior
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2014 Nissan Leaf "Sparky" High Resolution Exterior
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The Frontier heritage clearly shows through, even down to the cargo management rails. Engineers added the pine wood strips between the bed floor corrugations for added effect. Capping off the LEAF’s cabin is the rear cab section and window from the donor Frontier.

Nissan Leaf

2014 Nissan Leaf High Resolution Exterior
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The LEAF is Nissan’s answer to the need for an all-electric city car with room for four people and their cargo, and the ability to travel 75 miles on a single charge. The LEAF uses 24-kWh lithium-ion battery that has 48 compact modules with four cells each; this setup allows for tight packaging inside the car. An 80 kW AC synchronous motor delivers the power to the front wheels, totaling 107 horsepower and 187 pound-feet of torque.

Rated at 129 MPGe city, the LEAF is capable of 75 miles on a single charge. What’s more, a quick-charge port allows an 80-percent charge in as little as 30 minutes.

Pricing for the LEAF is surprisingly low, starting at $28,980. Add on the government rebates for an electric car, and the sticker price drops to roughly $21,000.

Press Release

If necessity is the mother of invention, engineers fuel that fire at Nissan’s Technical Center in Stanfield, Arizona. Here engineers are plentiful. They love to build things, test things and tinker with things. This team thinks a lot about "why not?" Recently they created a one-of-a-kind electric vehicle to haul supplies and people around on the tech center property.

2014 Nissan Leaf "Sparky" Exterior
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"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," said Roland Schellenberg, Nissan Durability & Reliability.

This is Sparky, as he’s known around the campus. It is a Nissan LEAF crossed with a Nissan Frontier, brought to life by Nissan’s Roland Schellenberg and Arnold Moulinet. Sparky is a one-of-a-kind creation with a specific mission in life. He supports operations at Nissan’s proving grounds located on 3,050 acres in Stanfield, Arizona.

2014 Nissan Leaf "Sparky" High Resolution Exterior
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"I needed a project for a team building activity so we can bring the team together. We had a need for a truck. Something to drive around, a shop truck," said Schellenberg.

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. 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.

2014 Nissan Leaf "Sparky" Exterior
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"Being a slick truck, and not so tough, I see it as a boy – but a boy with a heart. It’s something that we all put together. We all share. So it has a little bit of everybody in there," said Schellenberg.

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