Called the Nissan Leaf NISMO RC (did they have to make it sound like a toy?) the vehicle will make its official world debut on Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show. And before you get too excited, Nissan isn’t planning on racing the RC anywhere just yet; it’s for “demonstration purposes” and bears little in common to its commuter cousin. Sans two doors and 40% of the Leaf’s weight, the NISMO RC weighs just over 2,000 pounds thanks to a carbon fiber monocoque chassis.
For better weight distribution, the battery pack has been relocated to the center of the car (an improvement I hope to see on the production Leaf) and the electric motors provide up to 107 horsepower and 207 ft-lbs of torque. That’s enough motivation for a 0-60 mph time of 6.8 seconds and a 93 mph top speed for up to 20 minutes on the race track, which is ten minutes shorter than the required quick-charge time. So it’s not exactly “race ready,” (and not even half as fast as the Tesla Roadster) but I see a lot of potential, and I think Nissan does too.
After Nissan threw off the covers of the ESFLOW rear-wheel drive electric coupe concept, it became clear to me that the company sees electric cars the same way that I do; the next level of performance. Electric cars would seem to have a lot going for them when it comes to motorsports, not the least of which is the amount of torque available at a blip of the “throttle.” Electric cars also have far, far fewer moving parts, increasing their reliability on the track. “Refueling” could be as simple and quick as a battery swap, change the tires, clean the window, and you’re back to the action. While this particular “race car” lacks battery-swapping, Nissan’s French partner Renault is experimenting with Project Better Place on swappable batteries, which makes the most performance sense to me. Nissan is also said to be considering a “zero-emissions” racing series, but they’re probably more concerned with delivering Leafs to their very-patient customers, and rightly so. I’m a patient man too, and I hope the days of real Nissan Leaf race cars aren’t too far away.
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. You can read about his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout or follow his non-nonsensical ramblings on Twitter @harshcougar.