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Nissan offers look inside ZEOD RC racer’s powerplant

Sections: Powertrain

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Nissan ZEOD RC engine press photo

Nissan’s ZEOD RC will be powered by this engine, a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder turbocharged gasoline design. (Photo courtesy Nissan)

Nissan’s ZEOD RC racer has made news mostly for its electric powertrain components that will see it become the first car to complete a lap of Circuit de la Sarthe under electric power during this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, but the automaker this week gave us a peek at the ZEOD RC’s slick little gasoline engine. Think of it as the ultimate range extender.

The press release from Nissan said the engine, officially designated DIG-T R, is a 1.5-liter three-cylinder affair with a race-ready turbocharger. The total package weighs just 88 lbs, according to Nissan, and measures just 19.68 inches tall, 15.74 inches long, and 7.78 inches wide. Most impressive to me is that from this tiny package, Nissan claims to have wrung 400 horsepower and 280 ft-lbs of torque. That’s a power-to-weight ratio better than the latest Formula 1 race engines, at 10 horsepower per kilogram, Nissan said.

Nissan Global Motorsport Director Darren Cox said, “Our engine team has done a truly remarkable job with the internal combustion engine. We knew the electric component of the Nissan ZEOD RC was certainly going to turn heads at Le Mans, but our combined zero emission on demand electric/petrol powerplant is quite a stunning piece of engineering. Nissan will become the first major manufacturer to use a three-cylinder engine in major international motorsport. We’re aiming to maintain our position as industry leaders in focusing on downsizing. Lessons learned from the development of the engine will be seen in Nissan road cars of the future.

“Our aim is to set new standards in efficiency in regards to every aspect of the car: powertrain, aerodynamics, and handling,” Cox continued. “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. Friction is the enemy of horsepower, and tackling that has been one of the efficiency targets we have concentrated on heavily.”

Cox is speaking of Total, the French lubricants manufacturer the release said has worked closely with Nissan engineers to develop fuel and lubricants to maximize the potential of the engine.

Serving as Scientific Delegate for Total, Philippe Girard said, “Being chosen by a car manufacturer as a technological partner to achieve a demonstration of innovation is always a source of pride, especially on this legendary race – 24 Hours of Le Mans. It drives our researchers to find solutions and get the most out of the technical specifications as well as the fuel economy properties that our Total Quartz lubricants range provides to all passengers cars.”

This marks the second year Nissan will occupy the famous Garage 56 reserved for experimental efforts at Le Mans. The heavily discussed, not to mention strange-looking, Nissan DeltaWing was parked in that garage last year. After the LeMans 24-hour endurance race to be held June 14 and 15, Nissan says it will use the lessons learned at the legendary event to prepare the Nissan ZEOD RC racer for the car’s planned entry into the LM P1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2015.

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