Nissan has unveiled the groundbreaking ZEOD RC—the world's fastest electric racing car that will reach speeds of more than 300km/h with electric technology at the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The ZEOD RC (Zero Emission On Demand Racing Car) will make its race debut at next year's Le Mans 24 Hour. Nissan will trial variants of new electric drivetrain technologies as part of its intended future return to LM P1 competition to challenge for overall victory at the world's most prestigious endurance race.
Nissan's invitation from the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) to compete in the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours was announced by Nissan Chairman and CEO, Carlos Ghosn 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.
While the car will not race until next year's Le Mans 24 Hours, Nissan has kicked off a unique aspect of the program—race fans getting the chance to unveil the car in the public area of the Circuit de la Sarthe. Nissan intends to draw back the curtain for fans across the globe to provide continued updates via its international partnership with YouTube and its Nismo.TV channel.
"Nissan has become a global leader in the development of zero emission automotive technology and the Nissan ZEOD RC will allow us to further develop those capabilities using the toughest endurance race in the world as a mobile test bed to test the potential of our planned LM P1 power train," said Andy Palmer, Executive Vice President and Executive Committee member at Nissan Motor Company Ltd.
"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,” Palmer added. “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.
"As no other manufacturer is using electric battery technology in endurance racing today, Nissan is innovating again, and this will provide us with significant amounts of data and information to evaluate potential powertrains for future sports car programs and allow us to continue as the leader in Zero Emissions technology on the road."
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 race car prototype powered by the same 107-hp electric motor that is used in the road car.
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.
Nissan will partner with 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.