Nissan LEAF NISMO RC for the Race Track

The name on the back panel, just under the massive adjustable rear wing, says Nissan LEAF.  The powertrain is an 100% zero emission Lithium-ion battery design, just like that found on the mass market electric vehicle (EV).

And despite its lack of rear doors, rear seat, trunk, audio system, navigation, carpeting and other amenities, there is a discernable family resemblance. 

But that is where the similarities between the production Nissan LEAF and the Nissan LEAF NISMO RC end.  As indicted by the “RC” – for Racing Competition – this new electric vehicle, which makes its world debut at the 2011 New York International Auto Show on April 20th, is purpose-built to bring new meaning to the term “Racing Green,” says Nissan.

[ Also Read: Actor William Fichtner Wins Toyota Celebrity Race ]

Nissan is now looking the racing world as a way to draw attention to the seemingly untapped potential of electric vehicles. 

Recently, Signatech Nissan enjoyed a podium finish upon its debut in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) with the team finishing second in the LMP2 class at the Mobile One 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida, the opening race of the 2011 ILMC season. (Read: Nissan Returns to Sports Car Racing)

Moreover, automaker Nissan said it may be a concept, but the Nissan ESFLOW electric sports car proves it’s possible to remain environmentally sympathetic without having to give up the joy of driving. With technology used in the Nissan LEAF, the EV (Electric Vehicle) concept shows that driving can still be as much fun tomorrow as it is today, the company claimed. (Read: Nissan Rolls Out Electric Sports Car Concept)

Construction is progressing on Nissan’s manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Tenn., which will produce lithium-ion batteries to power the Nissan LEAF zero-emission vehicle. The all-electric Nissan LEAF will be produced at Nissan’s vehicle assembly facility in Smyrna beginning in 2012. (Read: Nissan Electric Vehicle Battery Plant in Tennessee)

In a related development, Portugal received delivery of the first 10 electric vehicles in Europe from Nissan as recognition of the country’s work in electric mobility with the MOBI.E Programme.

The Prime Minister José Socrates was one of the ten recipients and will now travel exclusively by Electric Car for his official travels around the capital city. (Read: Portuguese Prime Minister to Use Electric Car)

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Also, the first new Mercedes-Benz F-CELL hydrogen-powered B-Class vehicles are now available to California residents, making emission-free driving a reality. (Read: Mercedes-Benz Delivers Zero-Emission Vehicle)

Among the other automakers, Toyota has announced that coinciding with the arrival of the RAV4 EV in 2012, it will launch, in key global markets, the Prius PHV (plug-in hybrid) and a small EV (Electric Vehicle) commuter vehicle. (Read: Toyota Plans to Produce New Electric Vehicles)

Today, automobile vendors believe that sales of traditional vehicles will peak before 2020 and are looking to EVs as one of the next hot products. However, they will first have to address stringent consumer requirements about EV performance, recharging, and convenience.

This is revealed by tech company IBM with its new survey of consumer attitudes and a recent study of auto industry executives. (Read: Bumpy Roads Ahead for Electric Cars)

“Combining the talents of NISMO, Nissan’s world renowned motorsports group, and engineers behind some of the company’s Super GT and FIA GT1 race teams, the Nissan LEAF NISMO RC will serve as a rolling laboratory for the accelerated development of EV and aerodynamic systems, as well as a platform for the development of new green motorsports series,” said Carlos Tavares, chairman, Nissan Americas, speaking at the New York International Auto Show.

The new electric race vehicle will likely make a series of special demonstration appearances at various motorsports venues in 2011, with the company exploring pioneer zero emission competition spec series in future years.

Dimensionally, the race car features a 3.9-inch shorter wheelbase, is 0.8 inches longer and 6.7 inches wider. The main difference is height, with the NISMO RC sitting more than a foot (13.8 inches) lower than the production Nissan LEAF. 

Ground clearance is limited to 2.4 inches, compared to 6.3 inches for the road going car. And, at 2,068 pounds, the race car weighs in at about 40 percent less than the production vehicle. 

In preliminary testing the NISMO RC produces 0 to 62 mph acceleration in 6.85 seconds and a top speed of 93 miles per hour. It is projected to have a running time of around 20 minutes under racing conditions.

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Rakesh Raman