Capsule Review: Nissan Leaf Nismo RC

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
capsule review nissan leaf nismo rc

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.

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5 of 12 comments
  • CJinSD CJinSD on Nov 06, 2011

    Just to make the potential of this car easier to grasp for those of us raised on english units of measure, the Leaf Nismo RC weighs 2,035 lbs and has 110 hp. 18.5 lbs/hp isn't unbearable for a road car, but it isn't a high performance figure either. A Honda Civic EX rates 19.4 lbs/hp, a Civic Si about 14.3 lbs/hp. High performance sports cars are well, and I mean WELL, under 10 lbs/hp these days. The ZR1 Corvette is somewhere around 5.5 lbs/hp.

    • See 2 previous
    • Niky Niky on Nov 08, 2011

      Not to mention the fact that x* torque at zero rpm means absolutely zero work done. *no matter how ridiculously big a number x is...

  • YellowDuck YellowDuck on Nov 07, 2011

    More electric racing car articles, please! Very interesting. Is that the first time the guy drove it on that track or what? I almost felt like I could have done better....

  • Urlik So Texas did approve dropping it. Honestly I expect little difference. A significant percentage don’t bother with inspections, registration, or insurance as it is.
  • Bkojote I think it's a home run that VW is bound to bungle.For the anti-CUV crowd there's a cool factor here as pickup trucks have become so cartoonish. This will absolutely embarrass the neighbor with a GMC pavement princess pile in the driveway. Even better, the VW van fandom hasn't ruined these the same way it has the Sprinter, and honestly the design looks tight. And believe it or not there's huge demands for minivans- look no further than the unobtanium that is the Toyota Sienna.So here's what's going to go wrong-These are going to be priced on the premium end and they'll be hype for the first 3 years. The owners (whom The MKIV coil packs and dieselgate disasters a distant memory) trading in their post-college Rav4's and CR-V's are going to quickly discover the whole host of Volkswagen failures- bad sensors, glitchy software, leaking roofs, and hell it'll probably have an emissions scandal of its own somehow. This on top of the already terrible haptic controls VW has, the unreliable charging network, and terrible range. And they'll have the privilege of endlessly fighting with Sleazy Sam's VW dealership after the 4th flat bed tow.They're gonna make the same mistake the kids did in the 80's with the rabbit, the 90's with the Passat and Jetta, and the 00-10's with the TDI's- think VW finally turned the corner and stopped making garbage before doing the trade of shame back to Toyota and Honda.
  • Buickman the only fire should be in the board room.they just hired an executive from Whirlpool.that should help them go do the drain.
  • Mike Beranek I don't care about the vehicles. But I'd be on board for inspecting the drivers.
  • Art Vandelay Coming to a rental lot near you. And when it does know there is a good chance EBFlex and Tassos have puffed each other's peters in it!