Nissan ZEOD RC green racer turns heads, but can it turn quick lap times?

Is this what future racecars will look like?

With its triangular shape and fuel-efficient powertrain, the Nissan ZEOD RC shows that racers can save the environment and capture the imagination.

Nissan first showed the ZEOD at the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans back in June, or rather it said the car existed. Four months later, Nissan has revealed the complete car.

ZEOD stands for Zero Emissions On Demand, and Nissan hopes to campaign it at next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. While Nissan refers to it as an electric car, the version that will actually hit the track next year will have a 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine – based on the powerplant used in the Juke NISMO and Nissan-powered DeltaWing racer – supplemented by two electric motors.

That means the ‘zero emissions’ ZEOD will technically be a gasoline-burning hybrid.

Still, Nissan says its creation will be able to turn a few laps on electric power alone; it would be the first car in Le Man history to do that. Thanks to a regenerative braking system lifted from the Leaf Nismo RC, it should have enough charge after 11 laps of the circuit.

With an estimated top speed of 186 mph, the ZEOD should be able to keep up with the pack while running on volts.

Helping the car reach those performance targets is its unique shape. Underneath the jet fighter bodywork, the rear wheels are normally spaced, but the front wheels are positioned so close together that it’s hard to tell there are two of them. This cuts weight and improves aerodynamics.

We’ll see how this unusual racer stacks up against conventional designs at the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans. The ZEOD will be the year’s Garage 56 entry, occupying a special spot on the grid reserved for experimental vehicles. Because of their experimental nature, Garage 56 entries are considered unofficial, and don’t compete for the podium.

The first Garage 56 entry was the DeltaWing: a Nissan-sponsored car that the ZEOD borrows heavily from. The DeltaWing reportedly performed well at the 2012 Le Mans race, but it was knocked out of contention after a Toyota TS030 Hybrid collided with it.

If the ZEOD doesn’t meet the same fate, Nissan hopes to apply its tech to a top LMP1-class car, and try for an overall victory.

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