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Nissan shrinks the race engine

Small stuff: Nissan’s 1.5-litre three-cylinder Le Mans race engine packs a 298kW punch.

Three-cylinder race engine developed for Nissan’s hybrid race car assault on Le Mans

28 Jan 2014

NISSAN has revealed a tiny 40kg three-cylinder race engine that generates 298kW of power and 380Nm of torque, saying that lessons learned from the project could help to shape road cars of the future.

To power its arrow-like ZEOD (Zero Emissions On Demand) RC hybrid race car in the Le Mans 24 Hour in June, the 1.5-litre petrol engine works in conjunction with electric power to drive the rear wheels via a five-speed transmission.

The 300km/h-plus car will be capable of completing a full lap of the 13.6km Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans on electricity before the turbo-charged DIG-TR petrol engine takes over.

According to Nissan, the engine is just 500mm tall, 400mm long and 200mm wide – about the size of typical on-board bag for air travel.

The Japanese company said the race car would not only break new ground with its unique electric powerplant but also “revolutionise standards of performance and efficiency” via its little petrol engine.

Featuring a single turbocharger, the engine revs to just 7500rpm – low by the standards of race engines.

And while Nissan describes its performance as astonishing, the engine’s 298kW power output is well short of the levels set by Honda’s screaming 1.5-litre turbo V6 formula one engines which reputedly topped 1000kW in qualifying trim in the 1980s.

Nissan said it had focused on downsizing and efficiency in its race program for Le Mans, which is a precursor to a fully fledged sportscar racing tilt at the LM P1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2015.

Nissan global motorsport director Darren Cox said the engine team had done a truly remarkable job with the internal combustion engine.

“We knew the electric component of the Nissan ZEOD RC was certainly going to turn heads at Le Mans, but our combined zero emission on-demand electric-petrol powerplant is quite a stunning piece of engineering,” he said.

“Nissan will become the first major manufacturer to use a three-cylinder engine in major international motorsport. We’re aiming to maintain our position as industry leaders in focussing on downsizing.

“Lessons learned from the development of the engine will be seen in Nissan road cars of the future.”

BMW employs a similar three-cylinder turbo petrol engine in its plug-in hybrid i8 sportscar, with the production version rated at 170kW.

The Nissan ZEOD RC has hit the test track for shakedowns ahead of the race on June 14-15.

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