Monday, September 23, 2013

Search A hot lap in Nissan's pure electric race car

Nissan's Leaf RC concept delivers race car thrills with little compromise.
As far as race cars go, Nissan’s all-electric Nismo Leaf RC isn’t all that different from your run-of-the-mill petrol machine.
Getting inside the cabin requires mild contortion, the carbon fibre bucket seats and driving position are naturally low slung, and the ground-hugging profile translates to a fairly unrelenting ride over bumps.
But the sacrifices in comfort are worth making.
Fairfax Media recently sampled the pure-electric racer during Nissan’s global 360 event in Southern California, on a tight slalom circuit which took about 40 seconds to navigate.
The RC’s grunt comes courtesy of an 80kW/280Nm electric motor, which draws power from a 48-module lithium-ion battery. Drive is channelled through a single-speed transmission to the rear wheels, while weight is kept to a bare-bones 940 kg.
The set-up returns a claimed 0-100km/h time of 6.6 seconds and a top speed of 150km/h.
The motor and battery are nearly identical to the consumer-friendly Leaf, but a full carbon-fibre monocoque body shell and custom parts help deliver 40 per cent in weight savings. The RC also sits 18cm lower than the normal Leaf and is about 30 cm wider.
One lap of the tight slalom circuit was enough to show the Leaf RC offers the full-blooded race car performance its sporty profile points to.
Upon planting your right foot, the RC responds with instantaneous torque, getting up to speed without any loss of traction at the rear wheels. The throttle feel is well proportioned and easy to apply.
Navigating fast through the cone-marked slalom section is made easier by the electric motor’s generous reserves of instant power.
Rushing up to a left-hand hairpin corner at the midway point of the circuit, the brakes grab instantly and wash off speed without any semblance of lock-up.
An incredibly low centre of gravity, tuned double-wishbone suspension and Bridgestone R-compound racing tires (225/40-18) allow the RC to turn in and out of the hairpin with excellent levels of grip.
The steering feels sharp and direct and the electric motor allows you to apply full power sooner than expected.
The accompanying electric acoustics are something to savour as well; it sounds as though you’re riding in a beefed-up golf buggy.
The 40 second sprint undoubtedly showed how relevant electric cars now are on the race track; or at least in a short and tight setting.
But there is still considerable work to be done in making electric race cars viable; as I turned to walk away, the RC is being whisked off to a charging station after 20 minutes of back to back bursts.
Nissan officials role up to the track in a replacement RC Leaf, which has just spent 30 minutes connected to a charging station.
As the performance of electric cars continue to improve, the real race now will be manufacturing a system which can really go race distance.