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Nissan unveils ZEOD RC electric Le Mans Prototype; targeting 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours

Nissan ZEOD RC. Click to enlarge.

Nissan unveiled the ZEOD RC (Zero Emission On Demand Racing Car)—an electric Le Mans prototype racing car intended to reach speeds of more than 300 km/h (186 mph) at the Le Mans 24 Hours race in 2014, where it will makes its debut.

Nissan will use the same core lithium-ion battery technology as in the LEAF and will test out variants of new electric drive train technologies as part of its intended future return to LM P1 competition.

Nissan ZEOD RC. Click to enlarge.

Billy Hayes, Nissan’s Vice President in charge of global sales of the LEAF, noted that the ZEOD will use technology that has come from the huge research and development efforts that Nissan put into making its own battery and electric motor. However, the ZEOD units will not be the same units as the road cars because the demands put on the motorsports system are nothing like they would be on the street.

Nissan Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn announced the in invitation from the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) to compete in the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours in Japan in February. The car will compete under the ACO’s “Garage 56” entry—an additional spot on the grid for vehicles that showcase new and innovative technology.

Run as a Nissan / NISMO full factory international program with input from Japan, Europe and the US, the Nissan ZEOD RC design team is headed by Ben Bowlby who has been newly appointed as Nissan’s Director of Motorsport Innovation and previously worked on the Nissan DeltaWing program in 2012. (Earlier post.)

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.

—Andy Palmer, Executive Vice President and Executive Committee member at Nissan Motor Company Limited

Launched in 2010, the Nissan LEAF has become the world’s best-selling all-electric car. Nissan launched the Nissan LEAF RC in 2011—a racecar prototype powered by the same 107-hp electric motor that is used in the road car. (Earlier post.)

While current battery technology does not provide the energy storage capacity to race a solely electric Le Mans prototype, Nissan ZEOD RC designer Ben Bowlby believes the development of the car will be an important step in the electrification of the race cars of the future.

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.

We have many options to consider and test. The test program is part of a longer term goal of developing a system and a set of rules for this type of technology in partnership with the ACO that would be best suited to competing at the highest level of this sport.

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.

—Ben Bowlby

Nissan will partner with French tire manufacturer Michelin to produce tires for the new prototype. Nissan previously joined forces with Michelin on the Nissan DeltaWing program.

The Nissan ZEOD RC will make its testing debut later this summer. Nissan’s assault on the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hour will again target victory in the P2 class with 15 of the 22 entries powered by Nissan. In the opening rounds of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship, Nissan has taken victory at Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps.


Big Al

I would think that having an all electric car for Le Mans would be huge for advertising. A hybrid no so much.

I would think that a 30 second pit stop every hour to swap roll in roll out battery packs would be acceptable and keep them competitive.

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