"From zero to ZEOD in 33 weeks" – that's how long it took Nissan to develop the newest version of its Zero Emissions on Demand race car. Following the debut of the initial prototype show car at June's 24 Hours of Le Mans, Nissan has revealed the latest evolution in Japan, reiterating its intentions of racing it at next year's Le Mans event.
Nissan unveiled the ZEOD RC last week at the Yokohama headquarters of its NISMO performance brand. Japanese racing fans got a first look at the car at the FIA World Endurance Championship in Fuji over the weekend.
“Our goal for the program is to draw back the curtain for the fans to see the innovative technology that Nissan is developing," said Nissan Global Motorsport director Darren Cox. "We could not think of a better place than the Fuji round of the World Endurance Championship for the actual ZEOD RC to appear in public for the first time. We have interrupted our intense testing in the UK to fly the car to Japan for this display for the Japanese fans.”
When compared to the Le Mans show car from this summer, the updated racer includes revised styling, a new set of cooling inlets and aerodynamic improvements. The two ZEODs look identical at first glance, but a closer comparison reveals a number of changes, including a new rear fender design with added inlets, redesigned flanks, a modified rear end and a slightly raised fin.
"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," Nissan Executive Vice President Andy Palmer said at Le Mans in June. "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."
Nissan has not yet detailed all the specifics of the powertrain, so it appears that it is still experimenting. It is currently leaning toward an electric-petrol combination, mentioning that the driver will be able to switch between the LEAF-derived electric drive and a small, lightweight turbo internal combustion engine. The battery will get its charging from a regenerative braking system.
Nissan says the ZEOD RC is destined to become the first car to lap the 8.5-mile (13.7-km) Le Mans track on pure electric power and expects it to circle the track faster than an LM GTE car when it debuts there in 2014. It will hit speeds of more than 185 mph (300 km/h).
"To see the car go down the Mulsanne Straight at 300km/h in virtual silence will be unique," said Ben Bowlby, Nissan Director of Motorsport Innovation. "Developing the battery technology to incorporate this into a Le Mans prototype is an enormous challenge, but the lessons learnt will not only be very beneficial for the future LM P1 program, but also we can use this information to assist in the development of future versions of the Nissan LEAF and other electric vehicles for the road."
After this weekend's showing, Nissan is sending the ZEOD RC back to the garage to continue with refinement and development.