A lot of us have never been in a Nissan Leaf. But what about a battery operated Nissan Leaf Nismo race car? Chances are slim: Only eight of them have been (hand) built so far. Yesterday, I was in one of the few.
I was chauffeured around Nissan’s Oppama test track by Tsuigo Matsuda, who also had attempted to scare me in a GT-R. This time, the experience was electro-visceral: The immediate torque of the transmission-less racer slams you into the bucket seats as if a giant fist hits you. There is something else: The lack of roar. The motors emit an infernal high-pitched whine, but it is never loud enough to drown out an intercom-less chat with the driver as he manhandles that car through the turns. You can even hear the gravel being catapulted by the tires into the carbon fiber.
The Leaf Nismo shares the same powertrain and battery as the Leaf. The difference comes from a rigorous diet: The Leaf Nismo has a full carbon fiber monocoque body that reduced the already lithe 1,520 kg of the Leaf down to 925 kg. The weight to power ratio jumps to 11.56 kg / kW. Every Newton meter of torque only needs to propel 3.3 kg. Those specs were severely degraded by my presence in the passenger seat.
The current racer definitely isn’t suited for the 24 hours of Le Mans. Driven racing style, the battery is depleted in about 30 minutes. Even on a quickcharger, the Leaf Nismo needs another 30 minutes to recharge. Any fantasies of Better Place style battery swapping in the pits are quickly dispelled by comments that changing the battery takes an hour, 30 minutes if two guys work real fast. Any way you do it, be prepared for half hour pitstops.
Also, hot laps make the car run hot. Walking behind the shed, I see the Leaf Nismo on a quickcharger, connected by four humongous hoses. “Wow, that’s cabling for serious amps,” says I. “Those are airconditioner hoses,” explain the techs. They are used to cool the midship inverter, positioned right behind the seats.