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LeMans recap: What about the Nissan ZEOD RC?

Estaban Moreno June 19, 2014 Motorsports 22 Comments

Nissan ZEOD RCNevermind the legal issues surround Nissan’s electro-centric ZEOD RC. Nevermind that it really is a clear copy off the DeltaWing or that the BladeGlider concept inspired by it will probably never go into production.

It competed last weekend at the 24 Hours of LeMans, and you probably didn’t hear anything about it. If you did, it was probably that it completed a lap on all-electric power. And then, after 23 minutes and just five laps of Circuit de la Sarthe, it went kaputt. The transmission failed, and so did the most electrifying car in all of endurance racing.

With the advent of KERS, capacitors, and heavily hybridized race cars, does the Nissan ZEOD RC really matter? Do cars that run completely on electricity – extended-range electric cars – really make sense in racing? Further, do they make sense in any sort of performance car?


It can be argued that the Porsche 918 uses its motors for one of the smartest all-wheel-drive systems out there; Ferrari and McLaren use electric power for torque fill because high-revving engines don’t make low-down power. Also, they don’t have F1 rules to compete with, so #yolo. None of them do what the ZEOD RC does exactly.

The BMW i8 is most like the ZEOD RC, a car that run as an EV or like a hybrid. It’s neither the best performance car you can get for $136,000, nor the most efficient. It fills a void that I’d rather have filled by a Porsche or even a BMW Z8.

It’s in a no man’s land of performance, much like the ZEOD. Both are party favors.

Nissan makes a fantastic car in the GT-R, and having torque fill in the next-gen model would do wonders for it. But, and I hope Nissan learned this, a plug-in supercar for the sake of all-electric efficiency does not. Nissan is best to Leaf that one be. The ZEOD was a novel idea. It looks like nothing else. But since Nissan is getting back into the LMP1 class next year, wouldn’t it have been better to allocate the funds it used to knock Audi off its high perch instead? Surely, no one but the Germans would complain about that.


  • Eric Rood

    Darren Cox from NISMO said on Radio Le Mans yesterday that it was at least a partial test best for next year's Nissan LMP1 car. Or they "learned lessons" from the ZEOD project that will be applied to the prototype, I think, was close to the exact quote.

    The ZEOD did more than 180 mph on electric power only and they were asked not to run the car as a hybrid because the ACO didn't want it showing up the LMP2 cars.

    If you put all of that information together, I think you can expect to see the electric bits on the LMP1 car next year with a more powerful engine because an LMP1 will be a few hundred pounds heavier and need to go another 15-20 mph of top speed.

    • Eric Rood

      Of course, the real question remains "Is any of this relevant?" and I think you nailed it when you said they need to apply those systems to their halo car (GT-R) and eventually some version thereof on their more pedestrian street cars.

      Sportscars are becoming the new paradigm of automakers selling future-looking technology. Whether the current predictions of future automotive technology are worthwhile, well, people will debate that up and down.

  • tonyola

    The idea of an electric race car is now of interest, considering the attention that electric road cars currently get. Today's curio is the competitor of tomorrow. By the way, the first car to exceed 60 mph was an electric 'way back in 1899.

  • Five laps? This electric Datsun managed 26 laps at last year's Gator-O-Rama:

    <img src="http://www.murileemartin.com/UG/LTXF13/014%20-%20UG%20-%2024%20Hours%20of%20LeMons%20MSR%202013.jpg&quot; width="450">

    From this we learn two things:

    First, that race in France still has a ways to go if it wants to be taken as seriously as LeMons.

    Second, Nissan never should have changed its name.

    • FЯeeMan

      Your conclusions are spot on!

      Is that Dastun braking hard, or are they trying to emulate Red Bull's F1 ride height characteristics?

    • JayP2112

      "Dang good brakes"


      "MGB Rubberbumper stance"?

  • Alcology

    It's all about energy right? Whether that energy is from dead-dinos going BRRRAAPPP-BRRRAPPPP-BRRRAAPPP or a battery making whatever sounds it makes that I can't hear (I prefer a guitar solo). There were only so many dinosaurs and only so much dead-dino juice eventually it's all electric and guitar solos. Unless we do what is right. And make more dinosaurs.

    • "And make more dinosaurs."

      This is now the second time today I've had to acknowledge my failure as a geoscientist.

      • Alcology

        It's ok, I work in genetics. My chicken-lizard hybrid attempts are still producing dead chickens and fat lizards. That taste like chicken. So it's not a complete failure.

        • PotbellyJoe ❤❤❤❤♡

          I'm in marketing, have you thought about a theme park based around your lizards? Maybe use frog cells and insert the dino DNA in it?

          What's the worst that could happen?

          • Alcology

            We need a catchy name! Like Triassic Garden, or Pleistocene Esplanade.

            • PotbellyJoe ❤❤❤❤♡

              I was thinking Cretaceous Corral, but Triassic Garden is pretty solid.

              • Alcology

                I think I've eaten there.

  • Nuclearspork

    It really seemed that the revolutionary technology it had was pretty minimal. It was supposed to do 1 lap a stint on only battery power. Could be the legal battle just soured my view on it being that it seems like just an evolution on the deltawing, or that the original idea of an electric car competing made me think it would be a purely electric car which this wasn't. Now it seems they just used it as a free test of some components for next year which either because it didn't work well is their excuse or their plan from the begining. Still its better than having the spot and not showing up.

  • stigshift
    • Irishzombieman☆

      Wearin' the Jalop lollipop dude's shades.

  • PotbellyJoe ❤❤❤❤♡

    <img src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-BH-hn8-gqGg/TvzXKUIV15I/AAAAAAAAAP8/kWDVbNGrmKc/s1600/180_0_1212795306.jpg"&gt;
    All of the coverage for the Deltawing/KneelBeforeZEOD RC really screwed my perspective when I watched the Sidecar TT. They kept looking like one side was missing…

  • Van_Sarockin

    Your piece doesn't really make much sense. Nissan had about zero chance to win against Audi, whatever they tried to do. Porshe and Totota had much better shots, and faded under the pace. That ZEOD was playing its own game, and finishing order wasn't a high priority. The current link of road cars to race cars is pretty tenuous at best. It's nice when there is transference and bloodline and all, but these are different machines tasked to different purposes.

    What I was impressed by was the large number of Nissan engined cars finishing in the top ten.

  • I'm curious to see what next year's Garage 56 entry will be (assuming there is one). Wouldn't mind seeing someone try to run an opposed piston opposed cylinder engine.

    <img src="http://www.ecomotors.com/sites/default/files/twostroke-loop.gif&quot; />

  • SSurfer321

    Is this author related to Don Panoz? Why the obvious hate towards the Zeod?

    You know improves performance? Competition. And what greater stage than LeMans? If we ever want to have electric cars without range anxiety, we need to test batteries to the extreme. And running LeMans on battery power alone does just that. So it's only 1 lap per stint. That's one more lap than all the previous LeMans races combined.

    TLDR: A marathon begins with a single, first step.

    • skitter


      The current hybrids and cubic meters of manufacturer money in WEC and F1 are not about hybrids. We'll never drive them on the street hard enough to use the technology. This is all about how quickly one can charge and discharge a battery, followed by how much smaller and lighter the packs can be made. The ZEOD was the most ambitious attempt on the grid. An entirely electric lap, at pace, and then charging fully back up at pace? When they get there, everybody better watch out.

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