There are no electric-only automobile racing series in the United States at the current time, and a quick glance at the specs for the Nissan Leaf NISMO RC (for “Racing Competition”, not “Remote Control”) gives you an idea why. Even stripped of all unnecessary components, the Leaf NISMO RC still weighs in north of a ton. It’s quicker from zero to sixty than a standard Leaf, but it still takes nearly seven seconds to get there, before topping out at a maximum speed of 93 miles per hour. Under “racing conditions”, the Leaf NISMO RC is only expected to run for around 20 minutes per charge, which would make a Nissan Leaf spec series ideal for those suffering from attention deficit disorder. Still, I have to give Nissan a thumbs up for thinking in this direction; as it stands today, the Nissan Leaf NISMO RC isn’t much of a race car, but it is a testbed for improving the current road car. Sooner or later, racing will include electric vehicles, and Nissan is wise to get in at the forefront, instead of spending years playing catch up.
The Nissan Leaf NISMO RC is a purpose-built race car. It’s nearly four inches shorter in wheelbase than a conventional Leaf, and it benefits from the use of a carbon-fiber monocoque for strength and weight reduction. It’s nearly 7 inches wider and almost 14 inches lower than a conventional Leaf, and features a mid-motor, rear drive layout. The lithium-ion batteries and power inverter are also mounted in the center of the car for optimum weight balance. and the Leaf NISMO RC is designed to be quick-charged to 80% of full capacity in 30 minutes. Would I welcome the chance to hot-lap the car at Nissan’s racetrack of choice? Hell yes.
Nissan will use the Leaf NISMO RC for “special demonstration” appearances at motorsport events throughout 2011. The company is even looking into the feasibility of an EV-only spec series in the coming years, which would certainly be helpful in accelerating the development of enthusiast-oriented electric cars. You’ve got to start somewhere, and for Nissan that’s with the Leaf NISMO RC.