Electric race cars are trying hard to be taken seriously. Peak torque at zero RPM is hard to argue with from a performance standpoint. Having to make pits stops more often than a waterlogged person with bladder control problems is less impressive. These are the advantages and disadvantages facing the Nissan Leaf Nismo RC.
Using a lightweight carbon fiber construction the Leaf Nismo RC weighs 2,068 pounds; 40 percent less than the production Leaf. Besides suspension work that’s about the biggest change Nissan made to the car. It uses the same 107hp, 210lb-ft of torque electric motor as the production model. With the weight reduction it can reach 60mph in less than 7 seconds and is limited to a top speed of 93mph to conserve battery charge.
And there lies the rub: The Leaf Nismo can only muster 20 minutes of juice during racing conditions. As Motor Authority reports, “The short running time is still one of the major roadblocks for the use of electric cars in motorsport, but organizers are considering various methods of circumventing the issue.” (1)
One of the proposed solutions to the dilemma will be showcased next year in the FIA-sanctioned Formula E Championship for electric race cars. The series plans on using a process called “Car Swapping”, where drivers will race to another pre-charged car during pit stops.
“It will be kind of fun actually,” says Peter Van Manen, managing director of McLaren Electronic Systems. (2)
From a viewer’s perspective it would be fun to watch drivers navigate a hilarious Japanese games show-themed obstacle course during car swaps. Otherwise the process will most likely take some getting used to. The BBC reports car swapping could prove to be a temporary solution to get electric car racing off the ground.
“Formula E officials believe that future developments in battery and charging technology will eventually cut out the need for car swaps. For example, cars could be recharged as they race with variations on an inductive charge system or charging coils buried directly in the road.” (2)
That sounds a bit like an upside-down bumper car track. Interesting caveats aside Nissan and other automakers are taking to the track to showcase the untapped performance potential of their electric cars. The Leaf RC made its competitive debut last year in an electric race at Sportsland Sugo circuit in Japan, finishing second. The race was only 31 miles.
Watch the Leaf Nismo RC humming around a race track here.
(1) Motor Authority