Nissan is combining two very different elements from the automotive world for its latest concept, which is set to debut this week at the 2011 New York Auto Show. Described as ‘Purpose-Built Prototype’, the all-new Nissan Leaf Nismo RC essentially wraps the zero-emissions drivetrain and technology of the production 2012 Nissan Leaf with a carbon fiber race car shell.

As indicted by the ‘RC’, short for Racing Competition, the new concept is being used as a means to draw attention to the seemingly untapped performance potential of electric vehicles. Remember, electric motors offer virtually their full torque at zero rpms.

The Nismo name indicates that the concept was built using the help of Nissan’s motorsports division and in-house tuner. You may recall Nissan also used the Nismo and RC monikers on the awesome Nismo GT-R RC revealed earlier this year.

Instead of the front-wheel driven drivetrain found on the production Leaf, the new Leaf Nismo RC uses a rear-wheel drive system, with the motor placed in front of the rear axle.

The motor itself is rated to 80 kW, capable of producing up to 107 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque.  It is driven by the same 24 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack found in the production Leaf, mounted in a central location to give the best possible handling at the track.

This electric drivetrain rests in a custom carbon fiber monocoque body. The three-piece bodywork includes removable front and rear sections, fixed windows, LED headlights and taillights and driver-adjustable rear wing.

Dimensionally, the race car features a 3.9-inch shorter wheelbase, is 0.8 inches longer and 6.7 inches wider. The most dramatic difference is height, with the Leaf Nismo RC sitting more than a foot (13.8 inches) lower than the production Leaf. Ground clearance is limited to 2.4 inches, compared to 6.3 inches for the road going car. And, at 2,068 pounds, the race car weighs in at about 40 percent less than the production vehicle.

The Leaf Nismo RC also utilizes a double-wishbone suspension design front and rear and driver-adjustable brake balance. It rides on 18-inch wheels shod with P225/40R18 Bridgestone racing tires.

In preliminary testing the Leaf Nismo RC produces 0-62 mph acceleration in 6.85 seconds and a top speed of 93 miles per hour. It is projected to have a running time of around 20 minutes under racing conditions.

Nissan Leaf Aero Style Concept

Nissan Leaf Aero Style Concept

Importantly, this isn’t just a one-off concept never to be seen again. The Leaf Nismo RC will now serve as a rolling laboratory for the accelerated development of electric cars and aerodynamic systems, as well as a platform for the development of new green motorsports series.

The new electric race vehicle will likely make a series of special demonstration appearances at various motorsports venues in 2011, with Nissan also exploring a pioneer zero emission competition spec series in future years.

Note that the new Leaf Nismo RC isn't the first sporty concept version of the Leaf electric hatch. The automaker also rolled out the Leaf Aero Style concept (pictured above) to demonstrate the improved aerodynamics the car could achieve with some simple body attachments.


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