A Leaf For The Track, By Nismo

Racing a Leaf? Sure, that’s already been done, and now Nissan’s Nismo division has built a new Leaf-based race car.

Of course, it too is based on a modified base Leaf offering.

The name on the back panel, just under the massive adjustable rear wing, says Nissan Leaf and the powertrain is a 100-percent zero emission advanced lithium-ion battery design, just like that found on the regular Leaf.

Despite its lack of rear doors, rear seat, trunk, audio system, navigation, carpeting and other amenities, there is a discernible family resemblance.

But that is where the similarities between the production Leaf and the Nissan Leaf Nismo RC end.

As indicted by the “RC” – for Racing Competition – this is an electric vehicle that is, according to Nissan, purpose-built to bring new meaning to the term “Racing Green.”

Nissan, and its motorsports subsidiary NISMO, is looking to the racing world as a way to draw attention to the seemingly untapped potential of electric vehicles, according to Darren Cox, Nissan’s director, Global Motorsports.

“Combining the talents of NISMO, Nissan’s world renowned motorsports group, and engineers behind some of the company’s Super GT and FIA GT1 race teams, the Nissan LEAF NISMO RC serves as a rolling laboratory for the accelerated development of EV and aerodynamic systems,” said Cox, “as well as a platform for the development of new green motorsports series.”

Since its debut at the New York International Auto Show in April 2011, the LEAF NISMO RC has made a series of special demonstration appearances at various motorsports venues, including the Goodwood Festival of Speed. It had its competition debut in September 2012 in a 50 km EV race at the Sportsland Sugo circuit in Sendai, Japan – where it finished second to a more powerful vehicle.

Nissan said the LEAF NISMO RC is designed and constructed as a real racing machine, starting with its full carbon fiber monocoque bodywork. The three-piece bodywork includes removable front and rear sections, fixed windows, LED headlights and taillights and adjustable rear wing.

Based on the exterior styling of the production Nissan LEAF, the 2-door race version was created by Nissan Global Design Center in Japan.

Dimensionally, the racecar has a wheelbase which is 3.9-inch shorter, and has a 0.8 inches longer and 6.7 inches wider body. The most dramatic difference is height, with the Nismo RC sitting more than a foot (13.8 inches) lower than the production Nissan Leaf.

Ground clearance is limited to 2.4 inches, compared to 6.3 inches for the road going car. And, at 2,068 pounds, the racecar weighs in at about 40 percent less than the production vehicle.

The layout of the Nismo RC is also markedly different from the production Leaf. The battery pack is now in a mid-ship location, while the electric motor and inverter drive the rear wheels – versus the production Nissan LEAF’s front-wheel drive.

The Nismo RC also utilizes a double-wishbone suspension design front and rear and driver-adjustable brake balance. It rides on 18-inch 6-spoke wheels and 225/40R18 Bridgestone racing tires.

Like the production Nissan Leaf, the NISMO RC is powered by a lithium-ion battery composed of 48 compact modules and a high-response 80 kilowatt AC synchronous motor that generates 107 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. It can be charged up to 80 percent of its full capacity in 30 minutes using the quick charging port located inside the rear cowl.

The Nismo RC provides 0 to 62 mph acceleration in 6.85 seconds and a top speed of 93 miles per hour. It has a running time of around 20 minutes under racing conditions.

“There’s a perception among some people that electric vehicles fall on the dull side of the automotive enthusiasm scale – which is certainly not the case with either the production Nissan LEAF or this electrifying Nissan LEAF NISMO RC,” added Cox. “Nissan LEAF owners are fully embracing this new world of zero emission technology. We believe the same potential exists in the motorsports world as well, with Nissan proud to be first on the starting grid.”