|Nissan NISMO ZEOD RC electrified race car|
Nissan's goal is to return, in the future, to Le Mans P1 competition, and gaining overall wins using an electrified LM P1 drive train. The first step is the ZEOD RC, with a 300 km/hr top speed, slated for the 2014 Le Mans race via Garage 56. That garage is reserved for experimental technology vehicles such as the 2013 hydrogen fuel cell entry, the GreenGT, which unfortunately pulled out.
Since the ZEOD RC isn't a 100% battery electric car, then what is it? In a press conference to unveil the car, a Nissan representative talked about how in some ways regular road cars are ahead of race cars - turbo-charging technology has been downsized and applied to smaller engines, not for high performance but for higher efficiency - electric cars, like the Nissan Leaf, are on the market and slowly ramping up sales.
They expect to be able to run laps at Le Mans faster than a Ferrari GT car, which will be quite an achievement. That means less than 4 minutes a lap. There is no track record for electric cars at Le Mans, so anything Nissan does with the ZEOD RC will set the Le Mans electric car track record.
The electric part of the drive train is to use similar components (but not identical components) as are used in the Nissan Leaf. That means similar battery, inverter and motor technology but beefed up for the rigors of 300+ km/hr at Le Mans.
They aim to use the ZEOD RC as a test bed to develop these technologies, not just for a future electrified LM P1 race car, but for application to commercial electric cars sold to the public.
The theory presented by Nissan management is that by applying the same technology to race cars, they'll drive more awareness of electric drive train capabilities, while using the race track to accelerate technology development. We totally agree with this theory, because that's the exact purpose I personally have for focusing on electric racing news.
"The Nissan ZEOD RC is a natural progression that follows on from the development of the Nissan LEAF road car and the LEAF RC race car prototype. The technologies developed through the ZEOD RC program will form part of future innovations for Nissan road cars.
"The ZEOD RC program is designed to develop multiple technologies to evaluate how they could be used for a future LM P1 class return of Nissan at the Le Mans 24 Hour. There are multiple options we are investigating. A Zero Emission on Demand option where the driver can switch between electric and petrol-powered drive is a future direction for road cars, so that will be tested in addition to pure electric power and other new technologies that we still have under development.
"Developing a car like this provides an incredibly challenging test bed for what could be highly effective options for road cars of the future. Throughout the next twelve months we will be testing multiple drive train options in an extensive test program," Bowlby said.
"Nissan is a leader in electric vehicle technology for the road, now we want to take those lessons learnt and utilize that knowledge base in the development of the new race car.
"Our design team on the Nissan ZEOD RC program has concentrated heavily on packaging and aerodynamic efficiency that will not only provide extreme performance but high levels of energy efficiency – the goal for all global automakers.
"A large part of our work in the coming months is to discuss with the ACO future opportunities for the 'electrification' of the Le Mans rules in the future and work towards delivering appropriate technology. Garage 56 is a bold move by the ACO to showcase Innovation and allow testing of untried components and systems for future competition use. To this end they are the most forward thinking promoter in Motorsport today."