Nissan and its motorsport partner NISMO have finally revealed the engine that will feature in its 2014 ZEOD RC electrified race car, which will compete in the Garage 56 experimental entry in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The engine is a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder putting out an incredible 400 horsepower, but what’s more impressive is that the engine weighs just 88 pounds, which means a human is quite capable of carrying it (turbocharger and all), as NISMO chief Shoichi Miyatani demonstrates above.
The engine is code-named the DIG-T R and in addition to its 400-horsepower peak power rating it also develops a maximum 280 pound-feet of torque--numbers that make it almost comparable with some V-8 engines still on the market. At a ratio of 4.5 horsepower per pound, the new engine even has a better power-to-weight ratio than the new turbocharged 1.6-liter V-6 engines to be used in Formula One this season.
In the ZEOD RC, the engine will form part of an advanced plug-in hybrid drivetrain. Nissan says the driver will be able to switch between electric power and gasoline power, and the batteries will be charged via regenerative braking. Both the electric and gasoline powerplants run through the same five-speed gearbox that transfers power to the ground via Michelin tires.
For every hour that the ZEOD RC races, Nissan says the car will be able to complete one lap of Le Mans’ 8.5-mile Circuit de la Sarthe on electric power alone. This will make it the first race car in history to complete a lap in a sanctioned form of motorsport with zero emissions.
The ZEOD RC will undergo an extensive test program over the next four months prior to it making its race debut at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours on June 14-15.
Importantly, lessons learned from the development of the revolutionary race car will be used in the development of Nissan’s planned entry into the top LMP1 category of the World Endurance Championship, which the automaker today has confirmed will take place in 2015. Of course, some of the knowledge gained will also be seen in Nissan road cars of the future.