Thursday, February 7, 2013

Nissan's NISMO RC LEAF serves as rolling laboratory on the race track

Nissan has unveiled a new version of the souped up Leaf, the Nissan LEAF NISMO RC (Racing Competition).  The NISMO RC Leaf was first unveiled in 2011, appeared in some exhibition events, and then had a racing debut last September at a Japan Electric Vehicle Racing Association (JEVRA) event.  That version of the NISMO RC Leaf came in second place to a Tesla Roadster.  A press release put out by Nissan today describes the NISMO RC Leaf, but doesn't make it clear whether there is an updated version of the car or not.

It was described as a "rolling laboratory" by Darren Cox, Nissan's Director, Global Motorsports, who said said: "Combining the talents of NISMO, Nissan's world renowned motorsports group, and engineers behind some of the company's Super GT and FIA GT1 race teams, the Nissan LEAF NISMO RC serves as a rolling laboratory for the accelerated development of EV and aerodynamic systems, as well as a platform for the development of new green motorsports series."

The press release did go on to describe the car in good detail - so here goes:-

All the drive train components are direct from the Nissan Leaf.  That includes a lithium-ion battery composed of 48 compact modules and a high-response 80kW AC synchronous motor that generates 107 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque.  It even has a CHAdeMO charging port for fast recharging.  The fast recharge is gonna be important at the track so that drivers get in as much track time as possible per day.

The LEAF electrical system is, however, housed in a rather different car.  The car body is a carbon fiber monocoque, designed in three sections.  The front and rear sections are removable, the windows are fixed, LED headlights and taillights and adjustable rear wing.

The NISMO RC Leaf has a wheelbase 3.9 inches shorter, and 6.7 inches wider.  The car sits almost a foot lower, obviously for aerodynamics.  The weight, at 2,068 pounds, is about 40 percent less than the production Nissan LEAF.

The NISMO RC LEAF also utilizes a double-wishbone suspension design front and rear and driver-adjustable brake balance. It rides on 18-inch 6-spoke wheels and 225/40R18 Bridgestone racing tires.

The speed isn't exactly blistering, but then they are using the LEAF drive train.  While it's a respectably fast car, the regular LEAF was meant as a family car, not a speed demon.  The NISMO RC LEAF has a 0-60 time of 6.85 seconds and a top speed of 93 miles per hour.  At racing speeds it lasts for 20 minutes of track time.

That should be good for maybe 10 laps on most tracks.

We appreciate that they're trying out something different with the LEAF.  The production LEAF has an image among car buyers of being pokey, when in truth it has decent acceleration and top speed.  At the 2012 REFUEL electric car race a Nissan Leaf even beat a couple Tesla Roadsters.  That LEAF had had a few suspension and aerodynamics tweaks done to it.

Two weeks ago word came from Japan that Nissan NISMO had agreed to produce a NISMO LEAF for production and sale to the public.  In this case while carrying the NISMO name, it is not the NISMO LEAF RC which will be put into production, but a tweaked-up-by-NISMO production LEAF which will see a small production run.  That car will be sold only in Japan, for now, to gauge market reaction before trying to sell it internationally.

"There's a perception among some people that electric vehicles fall on the dull side of the automotive enthusiasm scale – which is certainly not the case with either the production Nissan LEAF or this electrifying Nissan LEAF NISMO RC," added Cox.  "Nissan LEAF owners are fully embracing this new world of zero emission technology.  We believe the same potential exists in the motorsports world as well, with Nissan proud to be first on the starting grid."

Source: Nissan

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