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Nissan’s Leaf NISMO RC Electric Race Car Wows With 322 HP and AWD

Nissan's turning over a new Leaf—the once odd-looking EV is now Longbottoming before our eyes.

Nissan revealed a racing version of its electric Leaf hatchback on Thursday, naming the car the Leaf Nismo RC. Sadly, it doesn’t appear that Nissan will organize a spec racing series for customers or professional racers.

The Leaf Nismo RC is an almost fully redesigned version of the electric road car, sharing but a few styling cues and drivetrain components. As opposed to the road car, the Nismo RC uses a carbon fiber monocoque with an integrated roll cage for rigidity and lightness, giving the car a weight of just 2,690 pounds (1,220 kilograms).


As opposed to the road-going Leaf’s 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque from its front axle, the Leaf Nismo RC possesses an inverter and a permanent magnet electric motor on each axle, together generating 322 horsepower (240 kilowatts) and 472 pound-feet (640 newton-meters) of torque. This power is distributed to the tires with the most grip at all times with a traditional mechanical diff, like Volkswagen does on the record-breaking I.D. R.

All this is good for a zero-to-60 scramble in approximately 3.4 seconds.

Juice flows from a mid-mounted lithium-ion battery, mounted amidships for favorable weight distribution. This battery is identical to the 40-kilowatt-hour unit found in the road car, meaning it too is light, but also not particularly capacious, especially for a race car. A 60-kwh battery is reportedly on the way for the road car in 2019, but Nissan’s statements suggest this isn’t the juice box powering the Leaf Nismo RC. Regardless, Nissan tells The Drive that the battery is good for about a half hour worth of racing at full tilt.

“The all-new LEAF NISMO RC shows how we’re setting our sights even higher when it comes to raw power and performance—making electric vehicles even more exciting for customers,” stated Nissan’s global EV marketing head,  Daniele Schillaci. “It’s our most thrilling expression yet of the philosophy of Nissan Intelligent Mobility.”

Nissan plans to build only six of the Leaf Nismo RC, meaning no customer race cars, and certainly no road cars. The automaker will exhibit the Leaf Nismo RC to the public on Sunday, December 2 at its Nismo Festival at Fuji International Speedway, where Nissan will also show off its second-generation Formula E car, due to race for the first time in mid-December.

Possibly best of all about the Leaf Nismo RC is that it’s not an exclusive one-seater prototype—Nissan deliberately built the car with two seats so its driving experience can be shared with audiences at major international events supported by Nissan. Included in this will be multiple Formula E races, called ePrix, a series in which Nissan will compete starting later this December.

“All the cars are equipped with passenger seats giving journalists, influencers, celebrities, and Nissan customers a sample of the extreme performance of the Leaf Nismo RC,” a Nissan spokesperson told The Drive. “In addition, key journalists will also be given the opportunity to drive the car at selected media events. We are studying fun racing ideas/challenges using all six cars together.”