Audi came away a big winner at this year's Le Mans competition, but Nissan has at least one thing to celebrate. The Pyrrhic victory apparently presages Nissan giving up on the gas-electric race car for Le Mans 2015.

Before the race this weekend, the prototype ZEOD RC hybrid race car was doing quite well. In fact, given the way things turned out, Nissan's keen to mention that team engineers managed to get the car to complete a lap on electric power and hit a target speed of 300 kilometers per hour (186 miles per hour) on the Mulsanne Straight during testing. ZEOD RC stands for Zero Emission On Demand Racing Car.

"The race was obviously very disappointing" – Wolfgang Reip

Things didn't go so well once the real race started. The problem for the Deltawing-esque prototype – which is powered by a 1.5-liter gas ending putting out 400 horsepower and a pair of 110-kW electric motors – was that something broke in the transmission after just 23 minutes and five laps. Driver Wolfgang Reip put his best spin on the hybrid's collapse: "The race was obviously very disappointing but having got a taste of Le Mans now, I can't wait to get back." If Reip does return with Nissan, it will likely be in a more traditional Le Mons racer. The ZEOD RC was part of the LM P2 class, but Nissan says that, "For Le Mans 2015, Nissan will return to the LM P1 class."

You can watch the full warm-up electric lap in a video below.



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Nissan ZEOD RC heroic electric lap followed by heartbreak

Amazing morning warm-up result after all-nighter by crew
"New tech" car halted by "old tech" issue
Nissan breaks new ground in electric vehicles

LE MANS, France – Nissan's assault on the Le Mans 24 Hours may have ended early, but the revolutionary Nissan ZEOD RC electric prototype still leaves Le Mans having reached its historic goals of hitting 300 km/h on the Mulsanne Straight and recording a complete lap of Le Mans on electric power only.

The unique prototype – which features both internal combustion and electric power sources – reached its first target during Thursday night qualifying when Satoshi Motoyama exceeded 300 km/h before the first chicane on the Mulsanne Straight.

Nissan's other key goal was to complete an entire 8.5-mile lap of Le Mans on pure electric power. GT Academy winner Wolfgang Reip was at the wheel when the team achieved this goal during the morning warm-up.

Reip started the race aboard the ZEOD RC and completed five laps before losing drive at the 23-minute mark. A suspected gearbox issue caused an early retirement.

Remarkably, the gearbox was one of the more traditional parts of the powertrain package. Both the 1.5-liter, 40 kilogram, 400 horsepower, three-cylinder engine and the pair of 110kW 40,000 rpm electric motors had performed faultlessly in the early part of the race.

"They say that life is a rollercoaster, but certainly motorsport takes this to the next level. Just today we've had massive highs followed by a temporary low," said Darren Cox, Global Head of Brand, Marketing & Sales, NISMO. "This morning the team did a brilliant job in achieving the electric lap. We only tried it once and we completed it. That is an amazing accomplishment for Nissan and electric vehicles. We were very confident in starting the race and earlier in the week we had already exceeded 300 km/h. We were looking forward to doing some more electric laps throughout the race but a traditional part of a gearbox broke. It is a real shame because we were really looking forward to showcasing the EV technology in the race. It has been an amazing experience for everyone that has been involved. I hope everyone who was worked on the project and put in so many hours will remember the high when the car completed its electric lap of Le Mans."

Sadly neither Motoyama nor Lucas Ordóñez was able to complete any race miles during the race.

For Le Mans 2015, Nissan will return to the LM P1 class – launching an assault against Audi, Toyota and Porsche for outright honors at the world's most prestigious endurance race.

For chief ZEOD development driver and Le Mans rookie Wolfgang Reip, today was filled with wildly contrasting emotions.

"Being at the wheel for the first all-electric lap was certainly an amazing thrill and very rewarding after spending so much time during the development of the car," Reip said. "The race was obviously very disappointing but having got a taste of Le Mans now, I can't wait to get back. This is an amazing race and I'd love to be a part of it again."


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 21 Comments
      2 wheeled menace
      • 6 Hours Ago
      That's what racing is all about. You push the envelope, and sometimes you fail. Then you get back up on the pony and try to kick ass next year with what you've learned from the last year. Keep it up, Nissan.
      paulwesterberg
      • 6 Hours Ago
      When you push the boundaries of technology you are bound to find them. The reward is learning how to overcome them.
        edward.stallings
        • 6 Hours Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        This stupid design pushes the rulemakers to make special rules that allow it to keep up. The ultra narrow front track causes a lot of problems for very little reward.
      BipDBo
      • 6 Hours Ago
      So they broke one little cog in the transmission, and their throwing in the towel on this design? Remember everything that the Deltawing crew went through and they still kept going. Nissan develops a trusting relationship with a small, innovative startup company, screws them over by hiring one of their head guys and stealing the design, they chew up the design and throw it away. Screw you, Nismo. BTW, why are you cooking your rear disks, yet no glow on the front? Did your modulator valve also malfunction?
        Neil Blanchard
        • 6 Hours Ago
        @BipDBo
        That's the first thing I noticed, as well - the rear should be using regen, I would think? It also looked *very* squirrely there at one point, with the rear stepping out to the sides. I'm glad they are trying, and I hope they keep at it. Do we know what the Cd of this car is? What is the major advantage that this design brings to the challenge of an electric race car?
        DeltaWingTech
        • 6 Hours Ago
        @BipDBo
        BipDBo, you're right. As the original developers we're continuing with the DeltaWing. Watch us at the Six Hours at The Glen at the end of the month. And you have the facts right. Thanks for your support and enlightening others about the facts.
      porosavuporo
      • 6 Hours Ago
      Hybrids : the worst of both worlds. I mean, you have 1.5 liter gas engine putting out 400hp there. Why would you complicate it further with electric drivetrain. Or just go full BEV
        pmpjunkie01
        • 6 Hours Ago
        @porosavuporo
        Facepalm! go check out what won the race. (HINT: Audi R18 e-tron quattro is a hybrid)
      edward.stallings
      • 6 Hours Ago
      This car is a loser design that needs special rules to allow it to compete. There are no rules preventing other LeMans cars from having a super narrow front track. They don't do it because it would be a disadvantage. This car needs special weight allowances to make it competitive. The initial idea was to have a spec class with all cars equally idiotic. Sure it looks different. So what?
      lne937s
      • 6 Hours Ago
      I hope we see more of that engine design, with the unitized cylinder block and head (like an Offy). Maybe put two of them together at the crankcase for the next GTR.
      dadslife83
      • 6 Hours Ago
      This is disappointing. Despite the politics and the back-stabbing I had high hopes for the racer. Maybe they should have started with a closed track spec support series closer to home. Moving to LMP1 next year, I hope this racer doesn't disappear completely.
        futurecars
        • 6 Hours Ago
        @dadslife83
        this was a test bed for nissan next year might have the same powertrain setup, but not this car, as you can see from under the sheet it does not look to have a long nose, from the LMP1 car they preview recently.
        edward.stallings
        • 6 Hours Ago
        @dadslife83
        Politics were what allowed this thing to run in the first place. You try applying to run at LeMans with a car that does not conform to the rules because it is too light and see how far you get.
      edward.stallings
      • 6 Hours Ago
      Hybrids are winning because the rules are meant to favor them. An open rule set would make them losers. This car is a loser from the start.
      BipDBo
      • 6 Hours Ago
      Well, I'm rooting for you. I was a fan of your design from the very first mock up. It was easy to see how well it would work. I look forward to see how you guys progress in the future. If you find yourself in need of a mechanical engineer with good intuition, albeit without experience specifically in automotive engineering, let me know.
      dadslife83
      • 6 Hours Ago
      This is disappointing. Despite the politics and the back-stabbing I had high hopes for the racer. Maybe they should have started with a closed track spec support series closer to home. Moving to LMP1 next year, I hope this racer doesn't disappear completely.
      lad
      • 6 Hours Ago
      Interesting wiggle at about 1:19/23 under braking; a bit unstable? Perhaps shifting the weight forward off the rear wheels to the narrow front end for braking has to do with it.
      • 6 Hours Ago
      This ZEOD RC is a standout because it is so different. Personally I got really excited about the first Delta Wing running in Le Mans, and am happy that the Delta folks are refining it still. I got excited to see the ZEOD RC run in Le Mans. I would be really more excited to see the ZEOD compete next year again vs. the GTR... and or the Delta folks come back and compete or see both!
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