Nissan ZEOD RC completes all-electric Le Mans lap … but retires shortly after

At the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans, it was a case of good news and bad news for the Nissan ZEOD RC.

The plug-in hybrid race car was able to achieve Nissan’s goal of a first-ever all-electric lap of Le Mans’ Circuit de la Sarthe, but the car didn’t last much longer, retiring just over 23 minutes into the race.

The ZEOD actually completed its all-electric lap of the 8.5-mile circuit during the morning warm up. It completed five laps of the actual race before losing power, apparently due to a gearbox problem.

Nissan says it was a case of a “new tech” car being shut down by an “old tech” issue. The gearbox is one of the most conventional parts of the car’s powertrain, which consists of a compact 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine, rated at 400 horsepower, and a pair of 110-kilowatt (148 hp) electric motors.

As the carmaker is quick to point out, the “new tech” parts of the powertrain performed  flawlessly during the ZEOD’s short time on the track. The triangular racer actually set a speed record for electric power at Le Mans, hitting 186 mph in qualifying.

Nissan will go off to lick its wounds, and plans to return to Le Mans next year in a big way.

The ZEOD was the 2014 Garage 56 entry, a car designed to show off new technology, but not compete directly for the win. For 2015, Nissan will enter a car in the top LMP1 category.

Called the GT-R LM NISMO, the company hopes it will give the current LMP1 cars from Audi, Porsche, and Toyota a run for their money.

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