If the ZEOD RC has an engine, is it really a Nissan LEAF race car?
After Nissan introduced the new gasoline power plant that will be inside the new ZEOD RC experimental race car, the question of whether or not the ZEOD RC is really a "zero emissions" or "electric" race car once again rears its head.
The engine announced is extraordinary and, regardless of your views on the electrification of the ZEOD itself, you must admit that Nissan's new little 1.5-liter dynamo is amazing (read about it here).
That said, though, we have to ask about the ZEOD RC's electric credibility.
ZEOD RC stands for Zero Emissions On Demand Race Car. That name actually spells out the car's propulsion system. It is a race car with the capability of going zero emissions when the driver demands it. That's pretty straight forward. In essence, it makes the ZEOD RC (at worst) a hybrid with an EV button like the Toyota Avalon or Camry Hybrid cars.
The EV propulsion underpinnings of the ZEOD RC are from the Nissan LEAF. In fact, they're literally lifted off the LEAF's assembly line and shoved into this race car. According to the Nissan design team, the only difference is that the system in the ZEOD RC attaches differently to the drive train, since it has to accommodate an engine, and some new tweaks to the controller. Otherwise, it is basically the same components the LEAF uses.
That engine, however, will be the one doing most of the work during the Le Mans races the ZEOD RC takes part in. Knowing what we do about the underpinnings of the ZEOD RC, though, we can unequivocally say that it's a plug-in hybrid. More than that, it's ground-breaking in every sense of that over-used term.
“Our aim is to set new standards in efficiency in regards to every aspect of the car – powertrain, aerodynamics and handling," said Darren Cox, Nissan Global Motorsport Director. "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."
That, in essence, sums up the whole point. The ZEOD RC isn't an electric race car, it's an electrified race car that is aiming to change how the standard Formula One series sees the EV idea. It's picking up where both the DeltaWing and today's hybrid propulsion for F1 got things and taking them all one step further.
Imagine an F1 racer equipped with the capability of sustaining a lap on electricity alone, powering its way otherwise using a fuel-sipping 1.5L little engine, and occasionally throwing a boost to the battery or the drivetrain thanks to its kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) flywheel, which captures braking power and returns it as electricity. That's a future the ZEOD RC could make a part of the Formula.