Nissan ZEOD: all you need to know
Inspired by DeltaWing, powered by battery: take a poke around Nissan's revolutionary Le Mans coupe
Posted: 09 Dec 2013
Nissan is entering uncharted territory with the ZEOD's powertrain. Instead of relying on a big combustion engine to get round Circuit de la Sarthe, it uses a 50kg, 320bhp three-cylinder petrol engine, and a powerful 120kg lithium-ion battery feeding two energy-dense electric motors. It's technically a hybrid. But unlike Audi and Toyota LMP1 hybrids, the petrol engine won't work in conjunction with the battery, or even juice it up. Instead, through regenerative braking and a trick transmission, the ZEOD will harvest wasted kinetic energy normally lost as heat during braking. That energy will then be converted into electricity to charge up the battery, which will be used to power the car later. This opens up a new chapter in the big book of race strategy.
The plan during the race is to run the fuel-efficient petrol engine - with no electric power - for a normal stint of 11 laps. During those laps, every time the car slows down, the recovered brake energy will charge the big, posh battery onboard. So when the combustion engine does run out of fuel, at the turn of a knob, the rear wheels will be driven by the electric motors, sending it on a bonus lap while everyone else pits.
It won't slow down, either. The combined power of the electric motors is actually a fraction more than the petrol engine - 326bhp, to be precise - and will get the ZEOD from 0 to 62mph in three seconds and down the Mulsanne Straight at 185mph. Bowlby hopes to average 135mph during each electric lap, equating to a 3min 40-odd sec lap time. That's LMP2 car quick. But as the ZEOD is a ‘Garage 56' project, it has no competitors and, aside from safety, no regulations to follow. Which means Nissan can do pretty much anything it wants in pursuit of that zero-emissions lap.