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Nissan pushes envelope of engine design

Tiny 40 kg, 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo engine generates 400 horsepower

Published: January 28, 2014, 7:00 AM
Updated: April 29, 2018, 2:47 PM

2014 Nissan ZEOD RC Le Mans Prototype - side view

Nissan has been pushing the boundaries of traditional race-car technologies – first with the experimental DeltaWing racer it entered in the 2013 Le Mans 24-hour endurance race; then with the announcement that it will enter similar car with an electric powertrain for the 2014 race.

That car, called the ZEOD, for Zero Emissions On Demand, will also need an accompanying internal combustion engine, of course, but the plan is that it will store enough energy from brake regeneration to enable one full lap of electric-only operation every hour.

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Nissan has been quiet about the IC engine it would use for the majority of the race, until now – for good reason perhaps. Turns out it's as newsworthy as the idea of lapping on only electric power.

Called the Nissan DIG-T R, the new engine is a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo, with a mass of just 40 kilograms (88 pounds) but a power output of 400 horsepower. It is said to produce 280 lb-ft of torque at 7500 rpm.

Just 500 mm x 400 mm x 200 mm (19.68" x 15.74" x 7.78") in external dimensions, the bare engine would fit inside the luggage guides for carry-on baggage at airports.

With a power density of 10 horsepower per kilogram, Nissan says, the new engine has a better power-to-weight ratio than the new engines to be used in Formula 1 this year

The entire concept of the Nissan ZEOD RC focuses heavily on downsizing and efficiency.

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To enhance efficiency, partnered with the French oil company, Total to help develop the engine and develop fuel and lubricants to maximize its potential.

The Nissan ZEOD RC will occupy "Garage 56" at the Le Mans 24 Hours race, an additional entry reserved by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest for new and ground breaking technologies never previously seen at the classic French endurance event.

Nissan says lessons learned from the development of the revolutionary race car will also be used in the development of the company's planned LM P1 class entry into the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2015, as well as in future Nissan road cars.

"Our aim is to set new standards in efficiency in regards to every aspect of the car: powertrain, aerodynamics and handling," said Darren Cox, Nissan's global motorsport director.

"We have worked closely with the team at Total to not only reduce friction inside the engine but within all components of the powertrain," he added. "Friction is the enemy of horsepower, and tackling that has been one of the efficiency targets we have concentrated on heavily."

The Nissan ZEOD RC will undergo an extensive test program over the next four months prior to it making its race debut at Le Mans on June 14-15.