Nissan shows off its hybrid-electric ZEOD RC Le Mans racer

By Bob Nagy on October 17, 2013 10:48 AM

Under 24/7 development for the past eight months, the radical Nissan ZEOD RC (for Zero Emissions On Demand) prototype racer will make its first public - albeit static -- appearance in final form at this weekend's World Endurance Championship round in Fuji. While bearing more than a passing resemblance to the original Nissan DeltaWing racer that ran at Le Mans in 2012, the automaker stresses that the new ZEOD RC shares none of its hardware. However, like its radical predecessor, this even more avant-garde entry also will occupy the experimental-only Garage 56 at the classic 24-hour endurance event in 2014. 

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As we noted in our original Nissan ZEOD RC preview story, this dramatically styled Le Mans prototype will serve as a test bed for the development of various new electric-vehicle technologies that the automaker will apply to both its future Le Mans LMP1-category racing entries and various production EV models. The ZEOD RC has a projected top speed of 186 mph and will be the first car capable of lapping the 8.5-mile Le Mans circuit at competitive speeds using only electric power. Ben Bowlby, a driving force behind the DeltaWing project and currently Nissan's Director of Motorsport Innovation, promises the ZEOD RC "will utilize technology never before seen at Le Mans and will provide a unique experience for the fans."

While offering no specific output figures on the ZEOD RC's motor or its battery pack which are still undergoing development, Nissan did confirm that the battery will use the same basic technology found in the in the current LEAF. In addition to on-the-fly recharges via regenerative braking, the ZEOD RC will supplement its electric motive force with a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine that makes about 300 horses and ship all power to the rear wheels via a paddle-shifted 5-speed transmission. The driver will be able to switch between the two at will, and Nissan estimates that it will take about 11 laps to pump enough charge into the ZEOD RC's battery pack to run a single circuit at race pace on EV power alone. 

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Although it maintains a strong visual link with the original prototype shown last June, this latest iteration of the ZEOD RC features numerous design tweaks to its dart-like exterior. A reshaped front air intake, revised side pods, more crisply rendered upper body panels, vertically stacked headlamps, large rear air intakes sitting atop recontoured fenders plus a more efficient rear diffuser configuration are the most visible changes. 

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