Nissan to build electric Le Mans racer

The Japanese manufacturer has announced that it will enter an electric car in next year’s 24 Hour event

Nissan has confirmed that it will take part in next year’s Le Mans 24 Hours with an all-electric racer that has been granted the 'Garage 56' entry for an experimental car.

Carlos Ghosn, the company’s CEO, said: “We will return to Le Mans with a vehicle that will act as a high-speed test bed in the harshest of environments for both our road car and race car electric vehicle technology.”

He added that the pioneering car, which will take part in the French round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, would showcase ‘electric technology with zero emissions’. The FIA has welcomed the announcement, as it continues to invest in environmentally friendly motor sport with the launch of next year’s FIA Formula E Championship for zero-emission racing cars.

The Japanese manufacturer attended Le Mans last year with the DeltaWing project, the first-ever Garage 56 entrant, in which the car ran outside of general classification, but was aligned to the LMP2 class. It said that the 2014 project will test ‘innovative powertrain technology’ and will provide the FIA and Automobile Club de I’Ouest (ACO) with data to “enable all parties to evaluate the incorporation of this breakthrough technology ahead of a potential return to LMP1 in the future".

Under the Garage 56 initiative, the car’s performance level will be defined so as not to interfere with the battle for outright victory or for wins in the different classes. The ACO and FIA will use the data gained to enhance the new LMP1 regulations and to assess their potential in racing conditions. If all the conditions are met, the next step would be for Nissan to enter a car in LMP1 World Endurance Championship with technology derived from the 2014 project.

Darren Cox, Nissan's general manager in Europe, said: "If we weren't trying to get Garage 56 every year, we wouldn't be innovative. That particular entry is put in place for the most innovative car that year. That's what we're all about. We're not about using it once and walking away from it. We really want to utilise that opportunity to show our innovation."

The ACO said that the project dovetails perfectly with its aim to make its races those in which top-level technology is an integral part of the sporting contest. New LMP1 technical regulations that come into force in 2014 open the door to the inclusion of new technologies, provided they can be measured and introduced while guaranteeing a level playing field for all entrants.

Vincent Beaumesnil, ACO sports manager, said: The Nissan project shows yet again that Le Mans-type endurance is the priority testing ground for the major manufacturers in the development of new technologies. The common desire of the ACO and the FIA to allow the inclusion of new technologies in the LM P1 regulations coming into force in 2014 is paying off!”