Just before the 81st edition of the 24 hours of Le Mans, Nissan unveiled its 2014 LMP1 prototype which features full electric drivetrain technologies and will achieve speeds in excess of 300 km/h. The name ZEOD RC stands for Zero Emission On Demand Racing Car, which indicates that the car has an option to race full electric but also an petrol engine can be found onboard. Nissan will trial variants of new electric drive train technologies as part of its intended future return to LMP1 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 today 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 LMP1 power train,” said Andy Palmer, Executive Vice President and Executive Committee member at Nissan Motor Company Limited.
“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. Nissan is already a global leader in the sale of all-electric cars and we’re eagerly awaiting the opportunity to showcase the lessons learnt with the development of battery technology in the world’s oldest, toughest and most high profile endurance race. 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. 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 sportscar programs and allow us to continue as the leader in Zero Emissions technology on the road.”
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 racecars of the future.
“Developing a car like this provides an incredibly challenging test bed for what could be highly-effective options for road cars of the future. Throughout the next twelve months we will be testing multiple drive train options in an extensive test program,” Bowlby said. “We have many options to consider and test. The test program is part of a longer term goal of developing a system and a set of rules for this type of technology in partnership with the ACO that would be best suited to competing at the highest level of this sport.”
“Nissan is a leader in electric vehicle technology for the road, now we want to take those lessons learnt and utilise that knowledge base in the development of the new race car. Our design team on the Nissan ZEOD RC program has concentrated heavily on packaging and aerodynamic efficiency that will not only provide extreme performance but high levels of energy efficiency – the goal for all global automakers. A large part of our work in the coming months is to discuss with the ACO future opportunities for the ‘electrification’ of the Le Mans rules in the future and work towards delivering appropriate technology. Garage 56 is a bold move by the ACO to showcase Innovation and allow testing of untried components and systems for future competition use. To this end they are the most forward thinking promoter in Motorsport today.”
Nissan will partner with French tire manufacturer Michelin to produce tires for the new prototype. Nissan previously joined forces with Michelin on the Nissan DeltaWing program. The Clermont-Ferrand-based manufacturer has an enviable record at the Le Mans 24 Hour, winning the past 15 consecutive races overall.
The Nissan ZEOD RC will make its testing debut later this summer. Nissan’s assault on the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hour will again target victory in the P2 class with 15 of the 22 entries powered by Nissan. In the opening rounds of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship, Nissan has dominated, taking victory at Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps.
Speficifactions are yet to be revealed.