Nissan has whipped the covers off its latest motorsports project at Le Mans today, revealing the hybrid-powered ZEOD RC.
Using last year's Deltawing race car as its basis, the ZEOD RC adds an enclosed cockpit and entirely new bodywork to give it an even slipperier shape. As with the Deltawing, lightness is a priority and Nissan says the car will weigh a scant 700kg in race trim.
However, there's one other major difference between the ZEOD and the Deltawing: the addition of electric power.
It won't be racing at la Sarthe in 2013 though. Instead, Nissan has set the ZEOD's race debut for next year's Le Mans 24 Hour, giving it a full year to prepare it for one of the world's most grueling races.
Unlike LMP1 cars from Audi and Toyota that use KERS-like systems to provide the occasional burst of electric energy, Nissan's ZEOD will differ by being able to run entirely on electric power for much longer lengths of time.
The batteries will use the same core technology as those used by the Nissan LEAF road car, but with packaging changesand weight reduction to make then suitable for racing.
It has yet to be revealed what combustion engine will be used, however given the development already done for the Deltawing's 1.6 litre turbocharged four cylinder (which is based on that used by the Nissan Juke), it would be fair to assume that will be the powerplant of choice.
Speed is claimed to be in excess of 300km/h - whether powered by petrol or electricity.
In fact, Nissan's Director of Motorsport Innovation Ben Bowlby says that the ZEOD would be able to shame many race cars around the Circuit de la Sarthe without burning a single drop of fuel.
"The Nissan ZEOD, under electric power alone, could actually run laps around Le Mans, faster than a Ferrari GT car," Bowlby said.
"This is a sub four-minute lap. It would be a record, because there is no official race lap record for a pure EV car.
"It’s an extremely exciting statement. It tells us where the technology of the battery-electric vehicle stands today."
However, Bowlby says the mechanical configuration of the ZEOD is far from locked in.
"This is an intensive development program that we are also going to showcase to the fans", he said, "they’ll get to see us test the different options over the next twelve months.
"Some ideas will work – some won’t – but this is all about taking risks and not just building what everyone else is doing, launching a new LM P1 programme and expecting to be successful.
"Could we use [pure] electric power at Le Mans one day? We don’t know yet, but we’re not going to find out by just dreaming about it.
"Nissan is going to go out and find out what is possible and what can be done."
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