Vital Stats

Engine:
80-kW AC Motor
Power:
107 HP/207 LB-FT
Transmission:
1-Speed
0-60 Time:
6.6 Seconds
Top Speed:
93 MPH
Drivetrain:
Rear-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
2,068 LBS
Seating:
2
Base Price:
Concept
Nissan took the wraps off its Leaf Nismo RC Concept at the New York Auto Show more than two years ago. As inferred, the vehicle shares many of its pure-EV components with the production Leaf currently sitting in your dealer's showroom. But don't assume the concept is a placid, family friendly, four-place, front-wheel-drive plug-in for grabbing groceries - the RC (as in "Racing Challenge") is a purpose-built, two-seat, rear-wheel-drive prototype race car tuned for the short track.

The RC Concept is fitted with an 80-kW AC synchronous motor driving the rear wheels and drawing power from a 48-module lithium-ion battery. While the motor and battery are nearly identical to the consumer-friendly Leaf, a sleek full carbon-fiber monocoque body shell and a slew of other enhancements mean the RC is 40-percent lighter, a foot shorter in overall height and nearly seven inches wider than its commuter namesake. Nissan says the RC Concept will hit 62 miles per hour in about 6.8 seconds, top out at 93 mph and run for about 20 minutes under race conditions (it will accept an 80-percent charge in 30 minutes with a quick-charger). Understandably, if a zero-emissions motorsport series comes to fruition, the races would be short and nearly silent.

We caught up with the Leaf Nismo RC concept in Southern California, where we were offered the opportunity to zip it around a tight autocross at the former Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro.

Driving Notes:
  • If the two-door looks diminutive and cramped in the pictures, that's because it is. My six-foot two-inch frame barely wedged into the Bride carbon-fiber bucket seat and my knees were forced to rub firmly against the OMP steering wheel (if the wheel hadn't been removable, I would not have been able to drive). The unfinished interior was hot and stuffy and the restrictive four-point harness only made matters worse. Then again, race cars aren't supposed to be comfortable.
  • Despite tipping the scales at a featherweight 2,068 pounds, the RC is not fast by today's consumer-car standards. Acceleration was moderately brisk (about the same as a Mazda MX-5 Miata), but more impressive was the throttle response that seemed to immediately send torque to the rear wheels. Without any combustion-related delay, driving an EV through the slalom required lightning-fast reflexes as the motor responded instantly.
  • An incredibly low center of gravity, tuned double-wishbone suspension and Bridgestone R-compound racing tires (225/40-18) at all four positions helped the pavement-hugging RC Concept corner with insane grip. I found its steering very linear, impressively accurate and well balanced. The powertrain mass is all placed mid-chassis, meaning the coupe seemed to rotate around an invisible axis at the base of my spine. There was zero understeer, it never felt like it was rolling over its front tires, but the torque from the electric motor was powerful enough to override the grip of the front end if power was applied before they were hooked-up.
  • The brake pedal was stiff, credit unboosted brakes and race-grade pads that needed a bit of heat before they were effective, but the modulation was excellent. I found it more effective to rely on regenerative drag for slowing, rather than wasting inertia by heating the rotors, as maintaining momentum (thus preserving battery energy) was critical in the moderately powered two-seater.
  • Overall, the concept reminded me of a big electric go-kart with a fancy carbon-fiber shell. It handled like a race car, and it was fun to drive, but in its current state it would only be enjoyable on a tight track during a very short race. Nissan hasn't made any official announcement as to where the RC Concept program is heading, but the automaker has hinted at a possible pure-EV racing series down the road. Based on my short jaunt around a bunch of cones, I'd consider that an electrifying step in the right direction.
  • Check out Nissan's video below of Chief Operating Officer Toshiyuki Shiga driving the RC Concept at the same event.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 23 Comments
      Steve
      • 1 Year Ago
      The future Zero Emission Ricer has arrived.
      lad
      • 1 Year Ago
      Nothing more than a PR prop without power to move it around the track. 80kw motor?, wow! I do like the platform and suspension and I can see potential in the chassis. It's a chassis waiting for a good drive line and high energy density, high power density batteries.
      Scooter
      • 1 Year Ago
      The Model S is a hell of a lot faster, and probably much cheaper. Its also 0 emissions and electric with more power and range.
        Michael Harley
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Scooter
        The Tesla Model S can't make it around Laguna Seca at speed. Period. - Mike
          JakeY
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Michael Harley
          @JakeY Actually, that was the RC vs two stock Roadsters, but the people in the thread guessed that the Model S would be even faster (which turned out to be true in the recent Refuel), so maybe even no tire changes are needed.
          JakeY
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Michael Harley
          Depends on what you qualify as "at speed". The Model S cuts power to ~160kW, but that's still twice the power of this car. The weight difference, suspension, and tires (the RC uses RE-11S r-compound semi-slicks, while the Model S is on street tires) is what matters more. There's a thread here that discussed a recent race in Japan. The Nismo RC had the fastest lap by 5 seconds, but still lost to the Model S by 9 seconds in the full 14 lap race. If the Model S had similar tires to the RC, I bet it can do very close or faster even in the lap time. http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?style=3&f=4&t=9947
        DumpTruck
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Scooter
        It is!?
      Skye Barcus
      • 1 Year Ago
      Holy crap, they actually made the hideous Leaf look kinda cool!
      Ele Truk
      • 1 Year Ago
      Wow, after spending how many thousands of (maybe hundreds) on this car, it's still less impressive than a stock Tesla Model S.
        J W
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Ele Truk
        I fail to see how you can compare the Tesla Model S to a Nissan Leaf.
          Scooter
          • 1 Year Ago
          @J W
          This is a race car with failure specs compared to a typical, even base model "Model S". He makes a perfectly valid point, which is, there's no point to a race car that's slower than most sports cars, a 93mile limit, and 20 miles of range. There's no telling how much development and building cost, but it was probably a 6 figure number.
          Michael Harley
          • 1 Year Ago
          @J W
          This Nissan will run laps around the Tesla on the track... My money says the Model S overheats
        Cheetahjab
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Ele Truk
        @ ele Compairing two different beasts and extremely closed minded on your part
        DumpTruck
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Ele Truk
        My guess would be they're more interested in developing the chassis at this point. All you need for more range is bigger/more batteries and a higher output electric motor which are basically off-the-shelf components. Use your head.
      Koenigsegg
      • 1 Year Ago
      still ugly but looks cooler
      breitling65
      • 1 Year Ago
      ugly frog on steroids
      Michael Walsh
      • 1 Year Ago
      What regenerative drag? I didn't notice any when I drove it.
      Dylan
      • 1 Year Ago
      80 KW motor (~105hp) with the same battery pack as the Leaf? Are they even trying???
        BraveLil'Toaster
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Dylan
        Yeah, that's what I said when the Nismo Leaf RC was first built what, a year and a half ago? For the love of god, at least put a bigger motor in there. A better controller would also be a step in the right direction. Or even just a better controller (which would probably beat the crap out of the motor, but that's what you *do* in racing). Noone expects to be able to turn a Sentra into a race car without upgrading the engine in any way. If you're going to supe it up, Nissan, do it right!
      Avinash Machado
      • 1 Year Ago
      Looks quite nice.
      thatitaliankid321
      • 1 Year Ago
      it looks like the Leaf met a Titan and lost. Still a great improvement in the design though
      Kuro Houou
      • 1 Year Ago
      Only if the real leaf looked something like that.. minus the huge butt, but the front end looks really nice!
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