Auto racing has been the origin and/or catalyst for many crucial automotive technologies. From the first rear view mirrors, to disc brakes, turbocharging and traction control, it has been proven time and again that “racing improves the breed.” The next step in that evolution is here in the form of all-electric racecars, such as this, the Nissan ZEOD RC; a racecar set to compete in the next 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Allowed to race under the Garage 56 rules, under which experimental vehicles compete, the ZEOD is an extended range electric racecar. According to Ken Bowbly, Nissan’s head of Motorsport Innovation, the ZEOD will have technology “never before used at Le Mans.”
In spite of that claim, the powertrain will not be completely electric, but will borrow heavily from tech developments made with the Nissan Leaf Nismo RC. The drivers can chose between running on the twin electric motors, or switching over to hybrid mode, which utilizes a 300-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged powerplant. Both drive modes send power through a 5-speed paddle shift gearbox.
If the design of the ZEOD RC looks familiar, then you are a good little race fan. The layout is essentially the Nissan Delta Wing, which ran at Le Mans in 2012. Nissan stresses that nearly every part of the ZEOD is new, but one can clearly see the evolution in design. It is very likely that this powertrain was the plan all along, and that the DeltaWing was a feasibility test for smaller displacement powerplants- it was just missing the electricity.
Under the Garage 56 rules, the car has to refuel every 12 laps. The car will develop enough electricity from regenerative braking every 11 laps to run the 12th on full electric power. We will be watching (and listening to the silence) when the ZEOD RC takes to the track at the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans.