Nissan breaks electric speed record in Le Mans qualifying, retires

ZEOD hits 300 km/h in France before a gearbox issue shuts it down

Published: June 15, 2014, 3:00 PM

Zeod Le mans

Nissan set an electric vehicle speed record Friday in a ZEOD (Zero Emission On Demand) racing car, hitting 300 km/h on the Mulsanne Straight in qualifying.

Driver Satoshi Motoyama achieved one of the  major goals the manufacturer had for the prototype, which uses a dual electric/internal combustion engine powertrain with two 110 kW electric motors plus a 40-kg, 400-hp, 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo engine, when he set the record on his electric run. The "on demand" part lets the driver select which power source to use.

Motoyama didn't drive on Wednesday night, citing a "gearbox issue" in the first session and a series of red flags during the night.

"I drove ZEOD at Le Mans for the first time and instantly we were able to reach our target to run at more than 300km/h with electric power only," said Motoyama said. "I was so surprised with the speed and power of electricity and it felt great. In yesterday’s session we had some trouble with the gearbox in the first session then we had a heap of red flag periods and I didn’t get the chance to get into the car. But the guys on the team did a great job to fix the car and I and I was able to get started tonight right at the green flag tonight. Our first target of the top speed of 300 km/h with electric power is done and I think that was a really good first step."

Motoyama and GT Academy winners Lucas Ordóñez and Wolfgang Reip each completed their mandatory five laps.

Presumably the same gearbox issue drove the ZEOD out of contention yesterday, with just 24 minutes in the record books. The ultra lightweight racer's run can hardly be considered a failure, in spite of not making it to race. It was expected to have run in "Garage 56," an additional entry for vehicles showcasing new and innovative technology, where its makers had stated a goal of completing a whole lap on nothing but electric power under race conditions.