Nissan made history at Le Mans on Saturday morning to record the first ever all-electric lap at Circuit de la Sarthe with the Nissan ZEOD RC. Driver Wolfgang Reip had the honour to complete the 13,6 kilometre (8,5 miles) course only by using the vehicle’s 110 kW electric motors, rotating at 40,000 rpm during the morning warm-up.
The Nissan ZEOD RC previously drove ‘large sections‘ of the track fully-electric and topped 300 km/h on the Mulsanne Straight during Thursay evening qualifying while Satoshi Motoyama was at the wheel.
“It is a huge thrill for me to become the first ever driver to complete an all-electric lap of Le Mans – especially since this is my debut at the race,” Reip said. “I used electricity to originally become a racing driver through GT Academy and now I’ve used it again to achieve this tremendous goal. I’m really thrilled for the entire team and honored I got the chance to be behind the wheel when it first happened. I actually got held up by a GT car during the lap. I was able to get past and it was quite a strange sensation to go by on electric power.”
Other technologies tested
Rather than only being able to drive electric, other technologies are tested. The car competes at Le Mans without traditional rear view mirrors. The drivers are made aware what is happening behind through a camera and integrated radar system.
“This is the only true prototype on the grid – literally the team have been testing, changing and updating the car every hour as we worked towards achieving our goals,” said Darren Cox, Global Head of Brand, Marketing & Sales, NISMO. “Our team actually worked through the night with no sleep to try to achieve the goal in the warm-up this morning. They are in the middle of the 48 hours of Le Mans. Nissan is the global leader for electric vehicles for the road and we proved today that we’ll be taking the same leadership role in electric vehicles for the race track.”
“The lessons learned from the development of electric drive systems and battery technology will not only improve the Nissan road car of tomorrow but will also be transferred into the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo – our new LM P1 car which will race at Le Mans next year”, explains Cox.
Nissan launched its upcoming LM P1 program on May 23 in London. The Japanese manufacturer will compete against Audi, Toyota and Porsche from 2015 at Le Mans and in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
First things first
Inaugural GT Academy winner Lucas Ordóñez will join Reip and Motoyama in driving the car in the Le Mans 24 Hours that starts at 3:00pm local time today. They will mainly use the the 1.5 liter, 40 kilogramme, 400 hp three-cylider internal combustion engine, but are able to switch to electric mode (zero emissions on demand).
The Nissan ZEOD RC is occupying “Garage 56” at Le Mans – an additional entry reserved by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest for cars showcasing new an innovative technology.
Reip started the race aboard the ZEOD RC and completed five laps before losing drive at the 23-minute mark. A suspected gearbox issue caused an early retirement.
Cox explains: “This morning the team did a brilliant job in achieving the electric lap. We only tried it once and we completed it. That is an amazing accomplishment for Nissan and electric vehicles. We were very confident in starting the race and earlier in the week we had already exceeded 300km/h. We were looking forward to doing some more electric laps throughout the race but a traditional part of a gearbox broke. It is a real shame because we were really looking forward to showcasing the EV technology in the race.”