When the 2014 Le Mans 25 Hours roars into life on 14 June, the latest version of Nissan's Deltawing will leave the start line accompanied by… a quiet hum.

Because the Nissan ZEOD RC will become the first entry at Le Mans to complete a lap of the Circuit de la Sarthe under pure electric power. In fact the Nissan crew is planning to do the first lap of each stint (a fuel 'stint' lasts about an hour) on battery power before the car's combustion engine takes over.

And that's where the real story is - the ZEOD's DIG-T R 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbopetrol. It's just 400mm long, 200mm wide and 500mm tall - small enough to take as carry-on luggage on a plane, although at 40kg it's a little too heavy for the overhead lockers.

Yet this incredibly small package delivers an astonishing 300kW at 7500rom, backed by a muscular 380Nm. At 7.4kW per kilogram it actually has a better power-to-weight ratio than the new Formula One turbo V6's.

Let's put that into perspective.

In 1944 the most complex aircraft engines the world has ever seen, each weighing more than a ton, were striving to achieve (albeit for very shot periods) one old-fashioned horsepower per pound (1.6kW per kilogram) using turbochargers, exotic fuels and water-methanol injection.

This little triple, light enough for the average adult to pick up and carry, produces very nearly five times that figure, on fuel of no more than 130 octane.


After extensive dyno testing, the ZEOD RC ran on circuit for the first time last week with both electric and internal combustion engines in place, driving through the same five-speed gearbox.

It will undergo an extensive test programme over the next four months before its race debut at Le Mans on 14-15 June, where it will occupy 'Garage 56', an additional entry reserved by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest for technologies not seen before at the French endurance classic.

Lessons learned from its development will also be used in Nissan's planned entry into the LM P1 class of the 2015 World Endurance Championship in 2015 - and in the company's future road cars.

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