Nissan has revealed the first technical details of its new three-cylinder 1.5-litre engine that makes up part of the powertrain of its radical ZEOD RC hybrid race car due to compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. The ZEOD RC, aims to become the first car to complete a full lap of the Le Mans circuit using only electric power.
Nissan’s focus with the ZEOD RC was on downsizing and minimalism, and it shows. The new Nissan DIG-T R 1.5-liter three-cylinder turbo engine measures approximately 20 inches tall, 16 inches long, and 8 inches wide. If the engine was not so heavy, you could easily transport it as a carry-on as it would easily fit inside the luggage guides seen at major airports around the world. The 88lb powerplant provides the driver with 400hp and 280lb ft of torque, and will propel the ZEOD RC to its 185mph top speed. The engine has a rev limit of 7500rpm, and runs through a five-speed paddle-shift transmission. At a ratio of 10 horsepower per kilogram, the new engine actually has a better power-to-weight ratio than the new engines to be used in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship this year.
Nissan has harvested the regenerative braking system from the Nissan Leaf to help power the ZEOD RC’s electric motor. The company says that in order to build up enough energy to complete a single lap of the 8.47-mile Circuit de la Sarthe, the racer must first complete 11 laps on petrol power alone. During that time, the car will generate enough electricity to fill its battery by harvesting energy from normal braking, thus it will be able to then complete a lap on electric power alone.
The ZEOD RC was revealed in October, with Nissan announcing it would occupy the ‘Garage 56’ entry for vehicles showcasing new technology at this year’s race. Lessons learned from the development of the revolutionary racecar will also be used in the development of Nissan’s planned entry into the LM P1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2015. Although the car is the spiritual successor to the Deltawing racer of last year, Nissan has stressed that “every last nut and bolt” on the ZEOD RC is new.
“Our engine team has done a truly remarkable job with the internal combustion engine,” said Darren Cox, Nissan’s Global Motorsport Director. “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 powerplant 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 focusing 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.”
The Nissan ZEOD RC will undergo an extensive test program over the next four months prior to it making its race debut at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours on June 14-15.
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