Nissan’s ZEOD RC Le Mans prototype electric racing car has had a new addition added to it’s drivetrain; a 1.5 litre three cylinder turbo engine weighing an incredibly light 40 kilograms.

Travelling under electric only power at Le Mans for a single lap per stint, the ZEOD RC’s new 1.5 litre turbo engine will provide power for the rest of the stint. Stints last approximately an hour, and with lap times likely to be under 4 minutes, roughly one in fifteen laps will be all electric.

Highly strung, the new Nissan DIG-T R 1.5 litre three cylinder turbo weighs just 40 kilos yet produces an incredible 400 horse power. The dimensions are just as tiny as the weight too, measuring just 50cm tall, 40cm long and 20cm wide. Nissan uses airline carriers overhead baggage restrictions as a guide to picture the engines tiny size, stating that the engine would fit in most overhead cabin allowed bags, though, of course, the engine would be too heavy.

Nissan ZEOD RC Le Mans racer

Coupled with the 400hp, the engine produces 380Nm of torque and spins up to 7,500rpm. With a power to weight ratio of 10hp:1kg, the engine outclasses even the most highly strung of engines, such as those used in this year’s FIA Formula One World Championship.

To further maximise the potential of the engine, Nissan teamed with French lubricants experts Total. Both companies focussed their efforts on efficiency and reduction in size, with Total contributing to developments in both fuel and lubricants.

Although the ZEOD RC will be racing in a league of it’s own at this year’s Le Mans 24 hours, in the so called Garage 56 (reserved for new and ground breaking technologies that don’t qualify in other racing categories), the car serves as a basis for future developments and Nissan’s planned 2015 entry into the LMP1 category of the FIA World Endurance Championship, taking on the ever successful Audi and increasingly equal Toyota teams.

Darren Cox, Nissan’s Global Motorsport Director, said:

“Our engine team has done a truly remarkable job with the internal combustion engine. We knew the electric component of the Nissan ZEOD RC was certainly going to turn heads at Le Mans but our combined zero emission on-demand electric/petrol power plant is quite a stunning piece of engineering.

Nissan will become the first major manufacturer to use a three-cylinder engine in major international motorsport. We’re aiming to maintain our position as industry leaders in focussing on downsizing. Lessons learned from the development of the engine will be seen in Nissan road cars of the future.

Our aim is to set new standards in efficiency in regards to every aspect of the car – powertrain, aerodynamics and handling.  For the powertrain we have worked closely with the team at Total to not only reduce friction inside the engine, but within all components of the powertrain. Friction is the enemy of horsepower and tackling that has been one of the efficiency targets we have concentrated on heavily.”

As is the norm, extensive pre-run testing has been done on the drivetrain and engine setup but the Nissan ZEOD RC has been on the track for the first time with everything in place just last week. Both the electric and petrol motors drive the driven wheels through the same five speed gearbox with grip provided by Michelin tyres.

Philippe Girard, Scientific Delegate for Total, said:

“Being chosen by a car manufacturer as a technological partner to achieve a demonstration of innovation, is always a source of pride, especially on this legendary race – 24 Hours of Le Mans. It drives our researchers to find solutions and get the most out of the technical specifications as well as the fuel economy properties that our TOTAL QUARTZ lubricants range provides to all passenger cars.”

Testing of the ZEOD RC will continue for the next four months prior to this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours on June 14th to 15th.

Source; Nissan

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